The Massachusetts House of Representatives today passed legislation sponsored by State Representative Paul K. Frost (R-Auburn) and State Senator Michael O. Moore (D – Millbury) prohibiting the unauthorized sale of veterans’ grave markers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Under the current Massachusetts General Laws, it is illegal to remove veterans’ grave markers; however, it is not a crime to sell stolen grave markers from a veteran’s grave.
Auburn resident and U.S. Army veteran Kenneth R. Ethier served as the driving force behind the bill. He witnessed veterans’ grave markers being sold at a flea market in Brimfield and was disappointed to find that local police officers could not act because it is not currently illegal to sell veterans’ grave markers in Massachusetts. He went on to ask Representative Frost to file something to address this loophole in the law.
Frost said, “We should always honor our veterans in both life and death. These grave markers belong to the deceased and no one else. They are not heirlooms, trinkets or collectables to be sold at flea markets, yard sales or on Ebay.”
The bill imposes a fine of up to $5,000 against any unauthorized individual who sells or attempts to sell a veteran’s grave marker. Those who commit a second or subsequent offense would be subject to the same fine, but would also face imprisonment in the state prison for not more than 5 years or imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for up to 2 ½ years.
Additionally, this bill also imposes a fine of up to $5,000 against anyone who receives, retains or disposes of a veteran’s grave marker which they know or should know to be stolen. However, this fine would not apply to individuals who receive or retain a veteran’s grave marker with the intent of returning it to a cemetery, a member of law enforcement, a member of the Department of Veterans Services, a non-profit veterans’ services group, or a local veteran’s agent.
The bill now heads to the Senate for further action.