How the ‘red flag’ gun bill came to be
It started with Harvard student’s experience back in Norman, OK
House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. Marjorie Decker of Cambridge hosted a rally of sorts at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School on Wednesday where they pledged to push for passage of legislation that would allow a family member, roommate, or law enforcement official to petition a court to bar someone from owning a firearm if ownership of a gun would present a significant danger of causing injury to themselves or others. Decker said the idea for the legislation came from Reed Shafer-Ray, a senior at Harvard College. I interviewed Shafer-Ray at the rally in Cambridge.
Reed, where are you from and what are you studying at Harvard. I’m from Norman, Oklahoma, and I’m studying sociology.
How did you get involved with the gun control issue? What happened is I had a close family friend who I grew up with from the time I was five or six. He was one of my closest friends. His big brother, Joseph, had been dealing with mental health issues and depression probably since the time I was in middle school. He was someone who had always had struggles with these sorts of things. Everyone in town knew about it – family, family friends, everyone who was close to the family knew this was a serious, serious issue.
How did you respond? I felt I wanted to do something. I wanted to help out, fix this injustice. If you know that something horrible is going to happen, you should be able to do something to prevent it. So I talked to Joseph’s mom and asked her what I could do. What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen to other families?
What did you come up with? What we brainstormed was this bill, House 3610, and the other thing we brainstormed was a voluntary do-not-sell bill. Basically, you put yourself on a list and you would not be able to buy a gun. It would help people like Joseph who want to get better and not hurt themselves, but would have bad moments, bad days. His mom likes to call it the Odysseus bill, where you tie yourself to the masthead and you can’t get to the sirens. You can resist the temptation.
What brought you in contact with Rep. Decker? I had actually worked a lot with her previously through the Harvard College Democrats. We had organized lobby days up at the State House. I already had contact with her office. When I heard we could maybe introduce these bills, I called her office. They drafted the bill and filed it with the clerk’s office.When did you make first contact with her office? December 2016.
How does it feel to get a bill this far? It’s amazing to see that one of the bills has gotten this far and now has the support of the speaker, which I think is a momentous, momentous step in the life of this bill.