Emergency legislation considered to temporarily ease gun background checks

BOSTON — A local lawmaker is seeking to temporarily waive the fingerprint check currently required to buy a gun.

Citing COVID safety concerns when taking the fingerprints, several Massachusetts towns and cities stopped issuing new gun licenses.

The proposal by State Representative Joe McKenna of Worcester seeks to give local governments the option of processing firearms licenses without fingerprints.

Fingerprints are one of the tools used to determine if a gun buyer has a criminal history.  But the process can involve close contact and face-to-face interactions with new applicants at police departments.

Rep. McKenna says his legislation will give the licensing authority, typically a local police chief, the option to waive fingerprint requirements at their discretion.

“Should it be adopted into law [this] would be exercised on a very, very rare occasion, and only under the most unique situations that prevent someone from coming into a police station and have their fingerprints taken,” said McKenna

Under the proposed legislation, the license holder would eventually be required to submit fingerprints. However, the proposal does not specify a timeframe of deadline for that.

“Nearly every aspect of our economy and every business has shifted to accommodate remote work and quarantine,” added Rep. McKenna. “It is right that we should do the same to ensure that all people maintain the ability to exercise their Constitutional rights in a safe and reasonable manner. Providing licensing authorities and/or EOPSS [Executive Office of Public Safety and Security] the ability to temporarily waive the physical fingerprint requirement during this crisis achieves that goal.”

McKenna says he’s open to fine-tuning the legislation and hearing suggestions from his statehouse colleagues.

As 25 Investigates reported, gun sales have boomed in Massachusetts and across the nation since the start of the pandemic.

Women and first-time gun owners are fueling sales, citing nervousness about the pandemic and social unrest.

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