BOSTON — Gun rights groups didn't fare well in the recent legislative session, with lawmakers pushing through bipartisan bills banning bump stocks, giving police more authority to seize guns and regulating stun guns as firearms.
As such, most Beacon Hill leaders received low grades from the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association ahead of the primary and general election.
The Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts issued rankings based in part on support or opposition to Second Amendment protections.
Jim Wallace, the group’s executive director, said many grades dropped from previous rankings because of support for the “red flag” bill, which allows police, friends and family members to ask a court for a so-called "extreme risk protection order" if they believe a legal gun owner poses a risk.
"It was a horrible piece of legislation," Wallace said. "But there was so much political pressure to pass it, they didn't seem to care if it was good or not."
He pointed out that the Legislature worked with gun rights and gun control groups in 2014 to tighten firearms laws without infringing on gun rights. But the Gun Owners Action League was largely sidelined in a discussion over the red flag bill and other measures in the recent legislative session, he said.
"We didn't have a seat at the table," Wallace said. "And they went after the guns, and not the problems behind them, which is sad."
Republican and Democratic lawmakers representing the North of Boston region received low grades from the group.
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican who just last year got the group’s highest ranking, received a C.
So did Rep. Lenny Mirra, a West Newbury Republican, and Rep. Jim Kelcourse, R-Amesbury, both of whom also voted in support of the red flag bill.
Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, both Republicans seeking another term, were given an F for their support of the red flag law.
Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat who has sued gun manufacturers and the Trump administration over gun control issues, also got a failing grade.
The state's 11-member, all-Democrat congressional delegation, including Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, were also flunked by the group.
The rankings were based on roll call votes and legislators' response — or lack of response — to a questionnaire. The group said it doesn't recommend voting for officials who received a D or F.
The group assigned failing grades to officials whom it suggests not only "do not support the Second Amendment" but "go out of their way to pass laws and support legislation designed to restrict and regulate our civil rights."
Rep. Colleen Garry, a Dracut Democrat, was the only member of her party to get an A for casting one of 14 votes in the House against the red flag bill.
Lawmakers who supported the measure say they stand behind their votes, arguing the bill strikes a balance between public safety and due process.
Rep. Linda Campbell, a Methuen Democrat who received a D from the group, said she voted for the bill because she believes it would help reduce firearm suicides among veterans.
"Lives will be saved as a result of this," said Campbell, a former Army captain. "The suicide rate among veterans is high, and the weapon of choice is a firearm."
Rep. Paul Tucker, a Salem Democrat who also got a D, called the bill "a reasonable way to make people safer without compromising due process."
Massachusetts already has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, but support for even tougher measures has increased since the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a subsequent mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas.
The gun owners group singled out lawmakers who helped write the red flag proposal — Reps. David Linsky, D-Natick and Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge — with F's.
Gun control advocates say the poor grades should be a "badge of honor.”
"We've very proud of the Legislature and Governor Baker for standing up for gun control," said Cindy Rowe, executive director of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action and co-founder of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence. "We hope they will continue to make laws that make our state safer."
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.
SECOND AMENDMENT GRADES
The Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, the state's NRA affiliate, ranked elected leaders based, in part, on their voting record on Second Amendment issues in the previous legislative session.
Gov. Charlie Baker, R-Swampscott - F
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, R-Shrewsbury - F
Attorney General Maura Healey, D-Charlestown - F
U.S. House of Representatives:
Seth Moulton, D-Salem - F
Niki Tsongas, D-Lowell - F
President Karen Spilka, D-Ashland - F
Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester - C
Joan Lovely, D-Salem - C
Barbara L'Italien, D-Andover - D
Kathleen O'Connor-Ives, D-Newburyport - Not graded
Brendan Crighton, D-Lynn - D
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop - F
Paul Tucker, D-Salem - D
Ann-Margaret Ferrante, D-Gloucester - D
James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury - C
Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead - D
Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury - C
Juana Matias, D-Lawrence - D
Frank Moran, D-Lawrence - D
Thomas Walsh, D-Peabody - D
Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers - D
Jerald Parisella, D-Beverly - D
Jim Lyons, R-Andover - C
Diana DiZoglio, D-Methuen - C
Brad Hill, R-Ipswich - C