PUBLIC SAFETY: Friedman supports changes in sentencing, curbing 'machine-gun' devices

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Issues embracing limits on prison sentences and on devices aimed at producing machine guns drew support last week from Sen. Cindy Friedman, Democrat of Arlington.

On Thursday, Oct. 12, she expressed support for a comprehensive criminal-justice bill, sponsored by Sen. Will Brownsberger, Democrat of Belmont: "I am proud to stand with Senate colleagues and community advocates .... Now is the time to bring real, meaningful reform to fruition in our state to reduce unnecessary incarceration and refocus on criminal diversion.”

She commented in an Oct. 14 news release following a State House rally seeking the passage of Senate Bill 2170, An Act Relative to Criminal Justice Reform.

Also on Oct. 12, Friedman joined a Senate vote with national implications, to control arms devices following the Oct. 1 massacre in Las Vegas. The vote was to ban bump stock and trigger cranks and classify them under the same general law that governs machine guns. The amendment, offered by Sen. Cynthia Creem, Democrat of Newton, establishes identical penalties, 18 months to life in prison, for the use and possession of bump stocks and trigger cranks as current law holds for machine guns.

Friedman commented: "I hear time and time again from constituents about the need for commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence. We took a step in the right direction today, and I’m proud of the Senate for taking swift action to ban 'bump stocks' and 'trigger cranks' in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy. This amendment will make our communities safer and I sincerely hope that other states choose to follow our lead."

'Burden on poor'

As to the sentencing measure, Friedman added: "I was especially honored to speak in favor of pretrial bail reform. Our current system places a disproportionate burden on the poor, the homeless and people of color. We need to move bail away from a cash-based system, because ability to pay bail should never be used as criteria to determine someone’s freedom."

Brownsberger said in a statement: "This bill is about lifting people up instead of locking people up and about cutting the entanglements that keep people from getting back up on their feet after they have made mistakes. At the same time it is about protecting public safety and using our law enforcement resources to target our most serious offenders."

Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Democrat of Amherst, added, "In state after state, criminal-justice reform has led to lower incarceration rates, lower crime rates and lower recidivism rates. It is time Massachusetts joins the national let’s-get-smart-on-crime movement, protecting public safety while improving outcomes with our precious tax dollars."

Geoff Foster, director of organizing and policymaking for UTEC-Lowell, a nationally recognized organization that works with at-risk youth, said: 'Criminal records stay with you for the rest of your life, and it's particularly harmful to young people who already have the highest rates of recidivism. This bill is another solid step for public safety and for youth across the Commonwealth as it would allow for juveniles to expunge misdemeanors from their records and take a clean slate into the workforce and college."

Beverly Williams, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization's criminal-justice action team cochair, said her group supports positive reforms in Omnibus Criminal Justice Bill (S1270) introduced Sept. 27 by Judiciary Committee Cochair Brownsberger.

The Senate plans to take up the legislation before the end of October.

'Danger inherent in deadly devices'

As to the arms measure, Sen. Creem said, "This amendment is a necessary and appropriate response to the dangers inherent in these deadly devices. The horror of the mass shootings in Las Vegas is unfortunately just the latest incident which calls out for the adoption of more sensible gun laws both here and nationally."

Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Republican of Gloucester, said: "The Senate’s bipartisan action means that those who are not appropriately licensed to possess devices that are in effect approximating a machine gun will be in violation of our state’s comprehensive firearms laws."

The amendment also instructs the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security to notify licensed owners and manufacturers of bump stocks and trigger cranks of the effective date of the changes.

Bump stocks use the recoil power of a weapon to effectively increase the rate of fire to make the gun a fully automatic assault weapon, which have been illegal in Massachusetts since 1994. At a country-music concert Oct. 1, 58 people were murdered and more than 500 injured by alleged killer Stephen Paddock. Law enforcement found multiple bump stocks and trigger cranks in Paddock's hotel room where the shooting originated.

The House of Representative passed a similar bump-stock ban, and the two versions will be reconciled before being sent to the governor's desk for his signature. 

This news announcement was published Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017.