Voters give green light on “red flag” gun law

The Topline

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo announced this week the House would take up the so-called “red flag” gun safety bill. The move ended months of speculation and growing pressure from outside the building. The proposed legislation would “allow a judge to temporarily seize guns from someone who might pose a danger to themselves and others.”

Eight states already have similar laws on the books, and some 20 more are considering them. Since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida in February, Florida itself and Maryland — like Massachusetts, a blue state with a popular Republican governor — have passed their own.

As has often been true on other issues in recent years, Massachusetts voters are way ahead of the state legislature. Our March WBUR poll found 89 percent of voters statewide approve of the proposed change. Massachusetts voters also approve of a variety of other tougher gun laws not currently being debated. Majorities also support raising the age to purchase a firearm to 21, banning high capacity magazines, and even banning semi-automatic rifles.
Even so, a red flag law is a significant step, and a break from an all too familiar pattern. After many mass shootings, there is an initial outburst of shock and outrage, but it subsides but before any action is taken. The conversation around guns since Parkland has been a bit more durable, although even this more sustained bump is showing signs of dropping off.

Much of the credit must go to students in the state. The Parkland survivors have drawn attention nationally, but students across Massachusetts have been marching, too. DeLeo gave credit where due, pointing to student protestors as a key force behind the push for the bill and holding the announcement at a school. Students have been walking out of class for months, partly in protest and partly to lobby for the bill. As the Globe reported:

“Over 17 minutes Wednesday morning, students from Somerville High School and other area schools orchestrated an old-fashioned phonebank blitz, flooding DeLeo’s office — and that of two other legislative leaders — with calls pushing what supporters call a “red flag” gun-control bill.”

None of the other proposals voters favor appear to be under serious consideration. With post-Parkland intensity beginning to fade, a red flag law may be the only change that passes for now. Sadly, given the rate of mass shootings, there is almost certain to be a call for more changes soon.


This has been an eventful week in Massachusetts politics, so much so that we released not one but two Horse Race podcasts this week. First wasour regularly scheduled Wednesday programming, an in-depth look at this past weekend’s state Republican party convention.

Then on Thursday, Steve and Lauren made an emergency trip to the podcast bunker after former Senate President Stan Rosenberg yielded to pressure and resigned in the wake of the a scathing report about his handling of allegations against his husband.

Last week we did a deep dive on ranked choice voting, and then took a closer look at the money behind the ballot questions campaigns.


The FiveThirtyEight Trump approval tracker, which aggregates presidential approval polls, shows 41 percent approve of President Donald Trump’s job performance, and 53 percent disapprove. It has been very stable in this range in recent weeks.

Also from FiveThirtyEight, Democrats hold roughly a 7 point advantage in the generic congressional ballot, a lead which has remained in a fairly stable range.

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Meet The Authors

Steve Koczela

President, The MassINC Polling Group

Rich Parr

Senior Research Director, The MassINC Polling Group

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