BOSTON – The Legislature’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee Friday favorably reported out a bill that would allow a family member or law enforcement official to seek out an “extreme risk protective order” for someone who poses a danger to themselves or others.

Sen. Michael Moore, D-Millbury, who co-chairs the committee, said the legislation is headed in a “fair way,” but added, “we’re still a long way from the finish line.” The bill now heads to the House for further action.

Under the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, family members, police officers or health care providers can file a petition with a court, similar to a restraining order. The person would then be entitled to a hearing, during which he or she could appeal to have the order lifted. It could be extended for up to a year if a judge deems the person a public safety risk.

Mr. Moore’s 22-year law enforcement career has helped him realize the complicated nature of this legislation.

“There’s a balance that we have to strike,” he said. “We can still maintain people’s individual rights, whether it’s their Fourth Amendment right against search and seizure, whether it’s their Second Amendment right, and at the same time, still ensure that there are avenues for law enforcement to respond to a possible threat.”

In the wake of February’s school shooting in Parkland, FL, 30 state legislatures have called for ERPO legislation. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School alumni lobbied legislators at the Massachusetts Statehouse on March 21 for this bill’s passage.

Florida passed an ERPO law following the tragedy, and Ms. Decker said the legislation would be a key step forward.

“This is a bill that really empowers family members to prevent tragedies that cannot be reversed,” she said. “And that is why it has a lot of support – from law enforcement and from people who are licensed to carry.”

The bill that was reported out on Friday does not have any significant changes. One change allows for the court to set a hearing date within 10 days of receipt of the petition, not 14. This reflects current harassment protection orders.

The Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts, the state’s gun rights lobby, opposes the legislation. Executive Director Jim Wallace has called it “cruel” and “dangerous,” and said the state should focus on improving access to mental health services and ensuring that systems currently in place are operating smoothly.

GOAL proposed what it calls an “ERPO alternative,” titled “An Act Relative to Suicide Prevention and Mental Illness Dangerousness Proceedings,” which calls for the Department of Mental Health to establish a friends and family suicide prevention hotline. It also seeks to confine any person who is deemed by a judge to be an extreme public safety risk to a mental health facility, and suspend all his or her professional and civil licenses.

This language has not been filed as a separate bill, but Mr. Wallace presented it to the Public Safety Committee.

“We’re offering a better solution, a much more reasoned solution,” he said. “We want to help people that can be helped, and make sure that people who just simply can’t walk amongst us don’t.”

Ms. Decker believes the GOAL proposal, which includes “template NRA language,” is not a sufficient substitute because it involves a different process.

“The legal threshold of involuntary institutionalization, which is what it does, does not reach the same level of when somebody actually might approach a judge for an extreme risk protective order,” she said.

Mr. Moore believes the bill strikes a balance between not infringing on individuals’ Second Amendment rights and not demonizing anyone with a mental illness, while at the same time preserving the public’s safety interests.

“The positive part about this legislation is that you’re not losing your Second Amendment rights forever,” he said. “If you can go through counseling, seek help, where you’re then no longer a threat, you then can get that Second Amendment right back.”

Mr. Wallace disagrees. While in theory an individual who receives an ERPO could obtain a firearm after the order is lifted, he said no Massachusetts police chief would give that person his or her license back.

“It’s not going to happen; that’s a pipedream,” he said.

Similar legislation filed this session by Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, was sent to study, but he said last month that either his or Ms. Decker’s legislation would “be an important step towards gun violence in Massachusetts.”

GOAL believes this legislation has the potential to “destroy” someone if he or she is labeled an extreme risk, but Ms. Decker pointed to a Connecticut ERPO law that passed in 1999 as evidence of why this bill would save lives. According to a 2017 study, led by Jeffrey Swanson, professor at the Duke University School of Medicine, at least 72 suicides were averted due to this legislation.

“It’s important for people to not be distracted by an organization who is constantly trying to bat away any regulations around responsible or sensible gun ownership and read the bill for themselves,” she said.