A tip of the hat to the Firearms Policy Coalition’s invaluable Rob Romano for finding this little legislative nugget from Massachusetts, which manages to infringe on both the First and Second Amendment in just a few short paragraphs.
Bill filed in Massachusetts that would ban anyone without a firearm ID card from entering a gun show: https://t.co/JtrRuykFKi pic.twitter.com/14qJdJDec9
— Rob Romano (@2Aupdates) March 15, 2023
While Rep. Carlos Gonzalez’s bill was introduced a month ago, so far it hasn’t received a hearing in the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, and hopefully that remains the case. But if lawmakers do decide to make HB 2334 a priority and this terrible bill gets enshrined into state law groups like the Gun Owners Action League and Commonwealth 2A are going to have a field day challenging the measure in court.
Ostensibly the reason for this egregious violation of the right of association is to crack down on illegal gun trafficking in the state. But Massachusetts law already requires all gun owners to possess either a firearms ID card for long guns or a License to Carry for handguns, as well as subjecting the vast majority of firearm transfers to background checks. Additionally, any and all private transfers are supposed to be reported to the state’s Department of Criminal Justice Information Services by both the buyer and seller of the firearm.
That provision is already constitutionally questionable enough, but Gonzalez’s proposal treads all over the rights of Massachusetts residents. Why should you need a license to carry or a firearms ID card simply to walk through the doors of a gun show or a gun club meeting? There are plenty of non-gun owners who attend gun shows, whether they’re thinking about buying a gun for themselves, checking out some of the non-firearm vendors, or even accompanying a gun-owning friend or family member. Gonzalez believes that should be a crime, albeit one subject to a financial penalty and not prison time.
The First Amendment says that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and that restriction has been placed on states and local governments as well thanks to the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court has weighed in repeatedly on the issue as well, including its opinion in NAACP v. Alabama in 1958 that stated, in part; “It is beyond debate that freedom to engage in association for the advancement of beliefs and ideas is an inseparable aspect of the ‘liberty’ assured by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, which embraces freedom of speech.”
By seeking to require all gun show attendees to possess a valid firearms license, Gonzalez is chilling the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of all Second Amendment supporters in the state. You have to be 21-years-old to obtain a LTC in Massachusetts, and while firearm ID cards are theoretically available to individuals 15-years-old and up, many young adults would be unable to walk through the doors of a gun show without risking a $300 fine. And there’s no exception in Gonzalez’s bill for minors accompanied by licensed adults, so the common sight of families strolling through the aisles and perusing the firearms on display would be a thing of the past if Gonzalez gets his way.
I think that’s likely the real motivation behind Gonzalez’s bad idea, despite framing it as an anti-gun trafficking measure. We’ve seen similar attempts to bar minors from gun shows in California, as well as efforts to ban gun shows from taking place on state-owned property; measures that California Rifle & Pistol Association president Chuck Michel says are aimed at obliterating gun culture altogether, or at the very least making gun ownership socially and culturally taboo as well as a legally dangerous proposition.
For now, Gonzalez’s bill appears stuck in committee, but given the anti-gun majorities in the legislature and the fact that this year’s session will last until January 2, 2024 there’s plenty of opportunity for the legislation to start moving. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the bill in the weeks ahead, but now would be a great time for Massachusetts gun owners to exercise their freedom of speech and tell their own state reps and senators what they think of Gonzalez’s outrageous assault on their fundamental right to peaceably assemble with like-minded lovers of liberty and defenders of the right to keep and bear arms.