Since I took office on 2 January 2013, one of the biggest constituent issues I am presented with concerns guns. I hope this column helps let citizens know my position and what I have been doing concerning guns.
The first gun bill I sponsored would fund police departments to implement evidence-based approaches to reducing illegal gun possession in places where gun crimes are occurring. My bill would use proven strategies to get the guns out of the hands of people who are not supposed to have them. It makes better use of existing laws to reduce gun crimes.
A second bill I sponsored that received bi-partisan support in the House and Senate would extend the grace period from 90 days to 180 days when an applicant renews their firearms identification (FID) and license to carry (LTC). This was deemed necessary because of the longer than usual time it takes to renew a LTC. This approach is a band-aid but it is a necessary one at this time so that the legal gun owners’ rights are preserved when they are waiting for their license to be renewed.
A third bill I sponsored was not too popular with gun owners. After talking with my police chief about my bill to extend the grace period from 90 to 180 days, he told me that the initial period of time to process an application in 40 days was too short ever since its inception in 1999. He explained to me that no one consulted the police or state firearms records bureau. Forty days was arbitrarily established. I asked him what a more realistic amount of time would be. He said up to 90 days. I filed a bill to support the needs of my police chief.
I recently started working on a solution to the manner in which the licenses that are renewed come in six year waves. Due to the implementation of the law that required an LTC to be renewed every six years, all then LTC holders were required to renew ever six years going forward, which has created a bottle neck.
I am now looking at the possibility of eliminating the renewal process. In other words, the system used to be that someone would get a license and have that license until it was revoked due to abuse or unsuitability. This is the standard in many states. This is just an idea at this point and I am taking input from different parties.
One of the issues that I have long championed has been to not vilify people with mental illness. I worry that recent high profile shootings done by people who suffered from a mental illness we all have heard about in the media will result in the unfair treatment of people who have or have had had a mental illness at some point in their lives. My concern is that someone who once was diagnosed with ADHD or postpartum depression, or someone who is successfully living with bipolar disorder, to name a few, is not going to be allowed their Second Amendment right because of the presence of a mental illness. It is not so much that we should be talking about who has a mental illness and keeping the guns out of their hands because they have a mental illness; the real question we should be asking is: is the person (with or without a mental illness) a threat to self or others if said person possessed a gun? Mental illness comes in many forms and degrees. The vast majority of gun crimes are not committed with people with mental illness, and but for high-profile media stories, which are very rare, there is little evidence to show that people with mental illness are more of a threat.
Even though I am a Democrat, I work very collaboratively with Republicans on this issue. Gun rights are not an issue that many Democrats put at the top of their agenda. But I am not the Democrat’s representative. I am the Second Bristol District’s Representative, and guns are an important issue to Democrats and Republicans in this district. As always, please contact me on this or any other issue.
Paul Heroux from Attleboro is the State Representative for the Second Bristol District. He can be reached at 508-639-9511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.