Massachusetts Gun Laws

Overall, does Massachusetts have strong gun laws?

As compared to other states, yes. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence rates Massachusetts an A- and ranks it 4th in the country, behind California, New Jersey and Connecticut. According to Guns and Ammo (writing from the gun owners perspective), we rank 49th in the country, ahead only of New York. Some other countries, where regulation is not constrained by the constitution, have much stronger laws.

Does Massachusetts ban assault weapons?

Yes. In Massachusetts, It is unlawful to sell or possess an assault weapon unless it was lawfully possessed prior to September 13, 1994. Massachusetts is one of only seven states that ban assault weapons. Massachusetts laws also banslarge capacity feeding devices” — ammunition magazines that can hold over ten rounds. Additionally, Massachusetts was one of the first states to control bumpstocks which can cause legal semi-automatic guns to fire continuously like machine guns.

How does Massachusetts define the term “assault weapon”?

The Massachusetts definition tracks the definition that the federal government used when it temporarily banned assault weapons. Roughly, it includes semi-automatic rifles and pistols that accept larger detachable ammunition magazines. However, the definition further limits the term to weapons that have specific additional features, which creates room (or arguably, a loophole) for weapons that resemble assault weapons closely, but do not have the specific banned features. In 2016, Attorney General Healey notified gun dealers that she would begin reading the term more broadly than it had previously been read. There has been controversy about her reading of the law, but it does appear to have eliminated sales of many weapons that resemble assault weapons. Fully automatic weapons, which unlike semi-automatic assault weapons can fire a continuous stream of bullets, have long been tightly restricted under Massachusetts law and, to a lesser degree, under federal law.

Can one possess a gun in Massachusetts without a license?

No. It is a crime that can lead to imprisonment to possess a gun without a license. The two main categories of license are the Firearms Identification Card which allows possession of basic rifles and shotguns and the License to Carry which allows possession of larger capacity rifles and also hand guns.

What is needed to obtain a license to possess a gun in Massachusetts?

Licenses require completion of prescribed training in firearms safety. Application must be made in person to the police chief in the community where one lives or works. The application requires disclosure of prior criminal, domestic violence, substance abuse or mental health hospitalization history. The application requires fingerprints and other identifying information for the chief to do a background check to verify the absence of such history. Significant history in these categories is disqualifying for all categories of license. As to applications for licenses beyond a basic FID card, the chief has broad discretion to deny an application if he has evidence that the applicant may be unsuitable (even in the absence of specific disqualifying history). Licensees must report any change of address.

What tracking occurs when a licensee actually acquires a gun?

All firearms transactions in Massachusetts, including transactions among private parties, must be reported to a central registry, the Firearms Records Bureau. The development of a central registry, accumulating transfer records, was initially controversial. However, the records of who is licensed and what firearms they own are not subject to the public records law (see clause 26(j) of G.L. Ch.4, §7).

How do Massachusetts licensing and transfer rules compare to federal rules?

At the federal level, there is no licensing requirement for gun owners. Background checks are required, but only for sales by dealers. Private sales, including sales at gun shows, do not require background checks. In the absence of universally enforced national background checks, it is possible in many states to acquire a gun without going through a background check. A recent study estimated that:

22% of current U.S. gun owners who acquired a firearm within the past 2 years did so without a background check.

Additionally, while licensed dealers are required to keep records of their sales, there is no central registry of sales. If, to solve a crime, investigators need to trace of sales of a gun, they need to place a series of calls to dealers. The trace may dead end through unrecorded private sales.

Are there other safety rules specific to Massachusetts?

Yes, through the years, Massachusetts has put a number of additional protections in place:

What more can we do in Massachusetts?

The top agenda item for gun safety advocates in Massachusetts is to make it easier to confiscate weapons when a person appears to have become emotionally unstable. House 3081 would allow relatives, health care providers, law enforcement officers and certain others to go to court to obtain an “Extreme Risk Protective Order” if they can show that a gun owner poses a “significant danger” to himself or others. If a judge approves the ERPO, it will result in immediate suspension of the owner’s license and confiscation of his weapons.

Why haven’t we already enacted an ERPO law?

The idea makes sense and I support it, but there is not a legislative consensus on it yet. Some gun owners argue that the law may be abused (see comments on my post on the subject). I’m confident in the judges on our bench and believe that they will not grant ERPOs except in appropriate cases of actual danger.

Additionally, gun advocates argue that the ERPO tool would unnecessarily duplicate other tools available to remove weapons when people appear dangerous — notably, domestic violence restraining orders, involuntary mental health commitments and the police chiefs’ discretionary power to revoke licenses. Indeed, these tools would be available and effective in many cases, but not in all cases. Domestic violence restraining orders are only available when there is a direct threat in a domestic context. Involuntary mental health commitments require a specific medical finding of mental illness, and even if that finding is readily obtainable they do not directly result in confiscation of firearms. That requires action by the police chief to suspend the license. Police chiefs do have broad power to suspend a license with or without a medical finding of illness. However, the suspended licensee need not surrender their firearms if they appeal the suspension. Some legislators suggest that, as a matter of practice, police chiefs act swiftly to confiscate weapons in many such cases. Whether or not this true and lawful, an ERPO would likely offer a cleaner path to safety in many cases and I do support the concept.

Resources

Related Discussions on Gun Issues at Will Brownsberger.com

This post was originally published on January 3, 2013 and was last updated on March 5, 2018.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

96 replies on “Massachusetts Gun Laws”

  1. I don’t believe any other measures other than the authorities take action when notified and they were notified many times over by school officials and police and did not take action to prevent the awful shooting that occurred a few weeks ago. that was the failure, not the gun laws we have in place.

  2. Thank you, Senator Brownsberger, for a very comprehensive report. One of the things I worry about is guns coming in from other states, which have laxer gun laws. I worry about the trade show loophole.

    1. Alice, there is no trade show or gun show loophole in Massachusetts. Every firearm sale or transfer must be recorded with the state – from https://mircs.chs.state.ma.us/fa10/action/home?app_context=home&app_action=presentHome

      “Massachusetts General Law c. 140, §§128A and 128B, requires all individuals who sell, transfer, inherit, or lose a firearm to report the sale, transfer, inheritance, or loss of the firearms to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services Firearms Records Bureau (FRB).

      It is unlawful to conduct a personal sale or transfer of a weapon to anyone other than an individual lawfully licensed in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

  3. So what is in common with most of these mass shootings. What is common is that they been raised without a father in their life. Fatherlessness is a Euge problem in Massachusetts can help solve this bypassing house bill 3090 the Child Centered Family Law Bill how to help bring Fathers back into kids lives . As for other gun violence what can be done . We can enforce existing gun laws and not allow people who use weapons to plea-bargain to a lesser sentence . We can make it a much tougher penalty for people who buy guns for people and give them to other people and make that a crime and enforce it

  4. Does Massachusetts law currently require periodic inspection by law enforcement to ensure that firearms are stored according to regulations (i.e., locked in a container or using a tamper-resistant locking mechanism)?

    How are transfers of firearms managed with regard to estates and passing them to family? Are background checks and licenses required for the recipient family member before the firearm is allowed to pass into their possession?

    It sounds like MA law is quite robust, and efforts should be made to bring neighboring states on board with similar legislation to prevent situations like in Illinois, where a large percentage of firearms used in crimes are brought in from neighboring states with lax laws.

    1. I don’t think the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution allows the MA State Police to kick in my door and perform a spot inspection on how I have my firearms stored. I could be wrong since the Constitution is open to debate these days by liberal judges and politicians. As a responsible and law abiding firearms owner I can assure all that they are ALWAYS safe and secure!

  5. I am worried about the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 which I believe has passed the House of Representatives. It would allow someone with a concealed carry permit from any state to bring the weapon with them into Massachusetts (unless they fly here, assuming they do not ship it and pick it up on arrival), even if they have not had to meet any of the requirements Massachusetts has established

  6. I hope the Legislature supports AG Healey’s efforts and rejects bill of Sen. Tarr to limit her efforts.
    Urban police departments need all the help they can get to remove guns from their streets and neighborhoods and I wondering what additional tools the Chiefs of Massachusetts 25 largest municipalities would like to have to lesson the risk of gun deaths, including additional technical resources.

  7. WILL, ANY SALE BY A FFL HOLDER A GUN SHOW REQUIRES THAT DEALEE TO CONDUCT A BACKGROUND CHECK THE SAME AS IF HE/SHE WAS MAKEING THE SALE IN THE LICINSED PREMESIS. OUT OF STATE DEALERS ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE A TRANSFER THROUGH A LICENSED MA DEALER. A INDIVIDUAL WHO IS NOT A DEALER, AS I REMEMBER BACK WHEN THE BLUE CARDS WERE USED FOR INDIVIDUAL TRANSFER AND WAS LIMITER TO 5 OR 6 GUNS TO BE DISPLAIED ON A TABLE, WITH THE PRICE OF A TABLE TODAY, ITS REALEY NOT WORTH IT TO AN INDIVIDUAL AND THE CARDS HAVE BEEN REPLACED BY THE TRANSFER OPTION ON THE NET OF PUBLIC SAFETY. HOPE THIS IS OF SOME HELP. RICHARD

  8. Pass legislation enabling ERPOs. They may overlap with other protections in part, but they also fill in potentially lethal gaps.

    … then figure out how to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys.

  9. An ERPO seems to eliminate loopholes and provide a path for rapid removal that the other methods do not. It makes sense to me!

  10. I would respectfully suggest that Maura Healey’s ban of copycat assault weapons should now be written into state law, to eliminate any future risk that it will be overturned.

    Also, the state is currently tracking gun sales, but not gun owners. The gun sales database is not well maintained, and in many instances is inaccurate.

    http://lexington.wickedlocal.com/news/20160312/state-tracks-gun-sales-not-owners

    Rather than registering sales, the state should register guns, in a similar manner to how vehicles are registered and kept track of.

    Another problem is that of illegal guns used, typically, in city crimes. Simply put, the Police takes too long to trace the weapons of the crime – and in more than half of the cases these turn out to be out of state guns, from New Hampshire and Maine.

    http://lexington.wickedlocal.com/article/20160312/NEWS/160318038

    We do have draconian laws on the books in regards to illegal guns. But these laws are not enforced, and one suspects it’s because our District Attorneys are finding it convenient to give a pass in many cases of people found to carry an illegal gun.

    To address this, I would suggest legislation mandating that the Police and the DAs maintain statistics of people found to carry illegal guns – and statistics of how many of these cases led to arrest, arraignment, court trial, conviction.

    With these statistics in hand, we’d be better able to tell if our DAs are doing the job mandated by law.

    1. You have hit the nail squarely on the head. Many people are arrested by the police and charged with illegal possession of firearms, ammunition, magazines, etc. Make no mistake, the arrests are being made. However, in the interests of judicial expedience, the charges are dropped, or reduced in order to induce the offender to accept a plea bargain. Most of the time, this eliminates any time in custody for the firearms offenses. It would be interesting to see a study done comparing the number of firearms arrests with the number of convictions, pleas, and actual sentences

        1. Will, what gun charges exactly? Unlicensed possession of a firearm, unlicensed possession of ammunition in the commission of a crime? How will more laws make a difference when criminals don’t follow the existing ones?

          Also, can you please provide a source for this statement?

          1. Source: Suffolk County House of Corrections.

            I haven’t seen the stats on all counties, but since we reduced the scope of the school zone law, most people serving mandatories are drunk drivers (predominant in some counties) and gun violators.

            Addendum

            I got an update on this as of March 2018. Middlesex County had 72 inmates serving mandatory minimums of which 24 were serving gun charges. In Suffolk, 50 were serving mandatory minimums for gun charges.

    2. “Also, the state is currently tracking gun sales, but not gun owners. The gun sales database is not well maintained, and in many instances is inaccurate.
      .
      .
      Rather than registering sales, the state should register guns, in a similar manner to how vehicles are registered and kept track of.”

      I’m sorry but you’re incorrect here. The state tracks every transfer of a gun and that information includes the make, model and serial number of the gun as well as the name and license number of the seller and buyer. Yes, I said “license number”. All legal gun owners in the state are licensed. If a licensed gun owner were to sell a gun to a non-licensed person, the state would have all the information they need.

  11. Explore, research, and understand the impact of medication-induced psychosis on mass shootings.

  12. A central online registry of firearms should be available to law enforcement personnel. The cumbersome method of making phone calls to a series of dealers is antiquated.
    A census inquiry for firearms should be sent out yearly, asking if the gun is still owned by the original purchaser at his/her registration address. Mail this [separate] form to gun owners at the same time (January) as the census form for persons and pets.
    A photo of the person purchasing a gun should be taken and placed on file with a photo of the firearm in addition to the text description.
    Massachusetts legislators are to be applauded for their work in establishing sensible requirements like safety devices and lockable gun storage requirements.
    It would be helpful to collaborate with neighboring states to implement shared gun registry records.

    1. Sale records are available to law enforcement if needed for a criminal investigation by making a request to the BATFE. This is actually a very speedy and efficient process.

  13. My sense is that with gun control as with heath insurance, Massachusetts is a leader and has done what a state can to tightly regulate matters within our borders.

    After sharing a personal civics lesson on the benefit of gun control with my daughter, she urged me to apply for a LTC. I did, and it took months to get the license approved by my PD. That seems appropriate to me.

  14. How do we prevent federal “conceal carry” laws from legalizing other state residents from bringing guns into MA without an MA permit?

  15. I support the ERPO option. Thank you Will. This issue means a lot to me as a former Newtown student.

    1. I also support the ERPO legislation. I do know of cases where people took their own lives using a gun. I do not know if an ERPO could have prevented their deaths in particular but I do think it could decrease access to guns by some suicidal individuals and thus save lives.

  16. Thank you Senator Brownsberger. I fully support The Extreme Risk Protection Order bill to allow relatives to remove firearms from their loved ones if they believe they are a danger to themselves or others. This is just plain common sense gun legislation. I support it wholeheartedly.

  17. We need to be the leaders for the rest of the country. I approve of these restrictions.

    I am concerned more money is needed for mental health.

  18. Will,

    Why wouldn’t the ERPO law apply to non gun owners? If a person is that level of risk, why wouldn’t we take that as probable cause and allow the police to search the person’s home even if the person does not have an LTC?

    The person might have an illegally owned gun or might be making a bomb, as we saw with the Tsarnaev brothers.

  19. Will,

    Thank you for a very well thought out discussion and list of resources. I’m also glad to know that you support an ERPO Law, and hope to see the legislature make some progress on this. Of course, Massachusetts also is vulnerable when so many other states have much weaker laws.

    Best,

    Mike Crowley

  20. Our gun laws have been effective. People commit dreadful murders in Massachusetts, as happened in the Winchester Public Library recently, but not so much with guns as in other states. As far as I can recall, we haven’t suffered mass murders, as have happened at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, Denver, and in Florida. But the epidemic of gun violence cannot be handled only on a state level. It is too easy to import guns into Massachusetts from New Hampshire, for example.

    It would be best if we could repeal the Second Amendment. Failing that we need a national ban on assault weapons, other powerful rifles, and concealed weapons. We also need more counselors and social workers, who can advise people on controlling their anger. My wife and I just watched “Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri.” It is a gripping movie and a cautionary tale about people unable to control their anger.

    1. Mr. Aaronson, As the founding fathers well knew, with no Second Amendment, there would be no true check on government power. Don’t you want our country to be able to remain free if a deranged dictator (maybe someone like, oh, Donald Trump) took power and tried to eliminate civil rights? The Second Amendment guarantees we can all have the freedom to vote, the right of free speech and a free press, and the right to practice your religion. Study history and note what inevitably happens when governments disarm their people. Again, the founding fathers knew it from first hand experience and built a very good check and balance into our Bill of Rights.

      Oh — and how many LAWFUL concealed carriers have ever bothered you? Illegally concealing a weapon and using it to do harm are already crimes everywhere in the country.

      1. Law abiding citizen,

        Over 90,000 people a year die in this country from gun shot wounds. It is an epidemic, much worse than the flu epidemic.

        When is the last time the government tried to deprive us of our freedom to speak, to assemble, to vote, to criticize Donald Trump, etc.

        Guns were tolerable when people lived miles from each other. Now when people live next to each other, and tempers flare, they are not. The gun epidemic is not a mental health problem. It is a problem of too many guns and too much anger. We can’t do much to control anger, but we can take away guns, which are also used to kill harmless animals.

        1. Michael Aronson,

          Can you provide a source for that 90,000 number? Even Everytown for Gun Safety reports a much lower number, like 13,000. https://everytownresearch.org/gun-violence-by-the-numbers/

          Take out cities like Chicago, Baltimore, DC, St. Louis with bad gang and drug problems and the number is substantially smaller again.

          As for the government suppressing rights, how about the 1st Amendment fight that clarified the right to film a police officer conducting their duties? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glik_v._Cunniffe

          or the MA goverment trying to prevent people from possessing NON-lethal weapons for self defense? https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/supreme-court-gives-boost-stun-gun-owners-n542566

          The ACLU argues that voter suppression, through laws, gerrymandering or other government tactics is a real and present danger.

          https://www.aclu.org/issues/voting-rights/fighting-voter-suppression

          In reality, the “gun violence rate” has declined since the 1990s.

          https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/03/weve-had-a-massive-decline-in-gun-violence-in-the-united-states-heres-why/?utm_term=.07370094ae5c

        2. The number is approximately 30,00 and 2/3 of those are suicides. Given that the suicide rates in other developed countries are similar or much higher in many cases (like Japan), there’s no evidence to show that lack of guns actually leads to lower suicide rates.

          Besides, does it really make sense to remove a right from everyone to prevent a tiny minority from self harm?

          1. Yes, limiting (not taking away) the “right” to bear arms to prevent a “tiny minority” from killing dozens or hundreds of people with guns does make sense. It makes loads of sense. It’s the only thing that makes sense! And believe me when I say that the knowledge that “law abiding citizens” are carrying concealed weapons makes me feel incredibly unsafe and afraid. I do not want to live among those people. No one has the “right” to put me in such a state of fear on some quixotic, misguided notion that that person will never reveal or discharge his weapon inappropriately. As for “responsible gun owners,” there are such people only when the common sense limits that the NRA and other 2nd Amendment hard liners refuse to accept as legitimate (like background checks, waiting periods, gun show sales restrictions, assault weapon bans, armor piercing ammunition bans, registration requirements) are in place and enforced. This is what makes a gun owner “responsible,” not what each individual gun owner decides for himself. Would you accept that I can drive just because I decide that I can? Would you rely on me as a good doctor or a plumber just because I say I am dependable? I wouldn’t. And I don’t. And I don’t trust people who say “Trust me, I’m one of the good guys.” Not if they won’t agree that some of those so-called ‘good guys’ could have been stopped from killing people had stronger gun laws been in place.

      2. law abiding citizen: can you document your claim that “As the founding fathers well knew, with no Second Amendment, there would be no true check on government power.”? The text specifically says that a militia is “necessary to the security of a free State” (emphasis added), not to make it easy for people to overthrow the government.

        Note also that any claim that the founding fathers were of one mind is nonsense, just like saying “The people of Massachusetts believe …”; they were scattered over a thousand-mile span, with wildly different interests and philosophies.

    2. Do you really believe that criminals observe the gun laws or any laws? I don’t. It is terrible that the woman who was killed had absolutely no way to defend herself…she might still be alive today.

      In fact, no one there was able to help her.

      The overwhelming majority of murders nationwide are not at all committed with firearms, they are committed with knives, hands and blunt objects.

      Statistically, there is no epidemic of gun violence.

  21. Go ahead. I dare you to watch and listen to this outstanding speech by Delegate Nick Freitas in VA…

    who articulately explains why some in the legislature choose to ignore facts and meaningful solutions, and instead use fear, emotion and personal attack to promote an ineffective gun control agenda.

    Our Country desperately needs more patriots running for office like Nick Freitas. God how I wish we had someone this brave in MA.

    2018 03 02 Delegate Nick Freitas Speech on Floor of House of Delegates

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqqJKChKRzI

  22. Do what ever it takes to keep guns off the streets !

    Approximately 10 years ago it was a big deal …… if one had possession of an illegal gun….. automatically ( if proven guilty) at least a one year in jail .

    We hear a lot of gun violence but NEVER about the sentences given to these people with illegal guns….. of course if there a crime involved the penalty should be 5 years plus the crime !

    Basically gun control is a JOKE ….! We hear & see very regularly gun crimes committed ( much in the “ inner city” but every where in the State . Apparently if one wants to get a gun ( lots of loop holes ) it’s NOT as difficult as we would like to believe ! MUCH IS NEEDED TO BE LEGISLATED——— True enforceable Law’s !!!

  23. Have you tried reading and implementing the recommendations of the Secret Service in the Safe School Initiative Final Report?

    That seems like the place grownups would start…

  24. Some generalities seen over time:

    The majority of the comments here are very likely coming from emotive, reactionary, and unread individuals on federal and/or state firearms laws. I see comments from people who want police and government so far up inside their fellow neighbors for no apparent reason. Wake up, people! These are your neighbors who have done nothing wrong but you want in-home gun inspections, registries of personal property and other violations of the 4th Amendment.

    This is the same type of thinking that would lead some to say “throw xyz in jail, don’t waste time trying him, he’s obviously guilty!” And curtail the 6th Amendment for someone charged with a crime. The 6th has already been under attack on college campuses when any girl can destroy a boy’s future without him ever setting foot in a court of law.

    Every “loophole” that is trying to be covered is also stripping away a certain amount of liberty. Tax deductions may someday be considered “loopholes” and that will be the end of them. Think of your neighbors before you legislate as some day your neighbors may legislate against you.

    With all that in mind, ERPOs give the state more power over something they can already do. What ERPOs don’t do is remove the danger of the person using other means. As far as the state is concerned, the person can go ahead and kill themselves via overdose, intentional cutting of vessels, etc; but as long as they don’t use a firearm, then it’s okay. The ERPO has no stipulation for mental help or access to it, but as long as you don’t kill yourself with a gun, then it’s okay. Motto: the state cares not for the individual with this ERPO proposition. This may be sad for all of you who think government will always take care of you.

  25. I have my doubts about the effectiveness of the bump stock provision being narrow. I think that law should focus on any method of use of any device that would enable a semiautomatic weapon to be fired at a rate similar to an equivalent automatic weapon be banned.

    1. A closer to home example — after the civil war, Southerners sought to disarm freed people. Returning black veterans bearing arms after World Ward II and actively resisting Ku Klux intimidation in the South was an important part of the fight to end Jim Crow in the 1950s.

      This is an uncomfortable thing for liberal gun control advocates (like me) to grapple with: There is a progressive history behind the second amendment which we cannot dismiss, however much we may now prefer to entirely trust the government for our protection. In the South in the 50s, the local police weren’t doing much to protect the black community, in fact some of the police were wearing sheets at night — and the black community needed weapons to protect themselves. For some great history on this era, check out Radio Free Dixie, Robert F. Williams & the Roots of Black Power.

  26. Thanks again, Will, for sharing your information. I like to believe that our democratic processes will ultimately keep us safe, and that an arsenal of guns is not needed. The current federal government is testing even my beliefs on that one, but I am so glad to be living in MA where, I believe, that we have strong, but reasonable, gun laws. I support ERPO, with the idea that its very existence would encourage everyone to notice and report something that could end up being a tragedy. No law will prevent every tragedy, but the U.S. should be embarrassed when compared to countries like Australia.

  27. I am glad to see Mass. is one of the states in the lead on gun regulation. I personally believe in a ban on guns , but know that hunters want to hunt deer and ducks (why, I don’t know). So that’s my only exception, except for police and other safety personnel for whom it is appropriate. Due to pitiful Federal lack of action, it will be up to us as a state to do all we can. One other thing : “duty to warn.” I’m a retired social work but worked in Protective Services for elderly. When people present a risk of harm to themselves or others, people involved and police need to be notified. Not sure exactly how this policy is worded but it’s important. Also, the failure of the notification system in some national cases , and at more than one in Mass. indicates necessity to tighten this up so it works.

    1. The 2nd Amendment is one of our most cherished right and freedom. It gives everyone of us the ability to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our property. It keeps us free from the tyranny and oppression that many people are subjected to throughout the rest of the world. I will never willingly allow that to be taken away me. MA firearms laws have gone the way of CA and are unconstitutionally restrictive. Your choice is to accept it, leave the state, or spend thousands of dollars in a court of law to fight for your freedoms. For those who feel completely safe with police protection alone and don’t choose to exercise their 2nd Amendment right or want to surrender it, great for you! After all, when seconds count the police are only a few minutes away. I pray that I will never have to use deadly force to defend myself or my family and home ever in my lifetime. But if I have to, I would rather be judged by twelve than carried by six! Don’t tread on me!

  28. As a gun owner I think House #3081 is a good start. But just like the Bump Stock Bill it is playing to the headlines and a knee jerk reaction. These ideas need to take into consideration the long term needs not just today’s headline news. House #3081 focus is the gun, like I said “good start” but what about drivers license or keeping that person from renting a truck at Home Depot (we saw what that can do). I don’t think that person should be on the “Fly-List” either. It seems like the focus is on guns and not the many other ways a person can do harm to themselves and others.
    The biggest question in all this is how do we help that person????
    Paul

    1. There is a practical difference between a purpose built weapon and an object that can be converted into a weapon. Hard to get a truck into most classrooms.

      But I agree that we need to look beyond guns.

      1. Truck bomb can level whole building. No need to get into individual class room. Ask marines in Beirut or people in OK.

  29. As always, thanks for posting your position on the issues and your reasons behind them.

    One of my biggest complaints with this bill is that it’s completely unnecessary. A licensing officer can already revoke a citizen’s firearms license for “suitability”. Revocation of the license makes it illegal for the citizen to possess firearms or ammunition; the licensing officer may already apply for a search warrant if they believe either to be illegally present. The existing suitability regulations already allow for an appeal process in court. Any of the parties listed in this bill – along with any other citizen – can already go to the police with a suitability complaint.

    It is not clear to me what this bill accomplishes that is not already available.

    In the interest of brevity I’ll list some other complaints in bullet point format.

    – I think your trust in the judgment of the Commonwealth’s judges is overly optimistic.
    Falmouth man avoids jail on drug, firearms charges: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DWhqk1ZV4AELYc8.jpg
    Probation for illegal possession of firearms, heroin: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DWhpsv_UQAAqTNW.jpg

    – You are focusing your efforts in the wrong place. MA already has a very low rate of gun violence but places VERY poorly in overall crimes of violence. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-most-dangerous-states-in-the-u-s.html

    Rather than continuing to place legal and administrative burdens on legal firearms owners, I believe you should be creating laws to ensure that people like those two I linked above go to jail for a very long time, and that you should be focusing on the other areas of violent crime where the Commonwealth is doing so much more poorly.

  30. Will,

    “Some legislators suggest that, as a matter of practice, police chiefs act swiftly to confiscate weapons in many such cases. Whether or not this true and lawful, an ERPO would likely offer a cleaner path to safety in many cases and I do support the concept.”

    Why not address that issue as part of this ERPO legislation? Also, if firearms are confiscated, I assume they’ll be stored in a bonded warehouse. Will you be addressing the issue of the exorbitant costs associated with that (which the owner of the firearms is responsible for)?

      1. Why not reconcile the law that gives the chief authority to rescind LTCs with this new proposal?

  31. Thank you very, very much. That was a very well-constructed article that made the current situation clear, in our state. Are there any improvements that can be made through regional cooperation with Connecticut, RI, New York. I did see reference to the fact that MA has joined them in a loose group. I am unsure as to what specific improvements will come about from that. Thank you, again, for your superb communication.

  32. Guns have no place in a civilized society.i understand and am willing to allow in the interest of freedom that others may think differently but if you want to possess a life ending instrument you should be subject to the strictest of standards.

    1. You probably own a car (yes, that’s a life ending instrument) and the standard you’re held to on that is far lower than the standard a MA LTC holder has to maintain.

      1. It’s an interesting comparison — really, cars are very highly regulated.

        You don’t have to bring in your guns for inspection annually. You rarely have police watching and writing tickets for any minor safety violation at the range.

        And, in fact, the registry will pull your license upon evidence that you cannot drive safely.

        1. Perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be: that every time a vehicle is used to kill we should revisit your ability to own and operate a vehicle. Can you imagine if each death by vehicle was sensationalized? Of course this would be ridiculous since you as a vehicle owner really have no intention of harming anyone. On the other hand, tens of millions of legal gun owners don’t want to harm anyone either. Their intention is to defend and therefore preserve life.

        2. Yes Will, cars are highly regulated in a variety of ways, but they’re not regulated much at all when it comes to who can own them. That’s much different than who can drive them on public roads.

          A felon can buy and own a car. I can buy a car, not register it, rip all the safety and emissions equipment out and use it on private grounds (like a race track). The regulations come into play when a person wants to drive that car on public roads (a privilege, not a right).

          Further, the regulations cars need to meet are only required if that car is to be driven on public roads. There are plenty of “cars” I can buy that don’t meet those regulations. I can’t drive them legally on public roads though.

          As for pulling your license, yes, upon evidence they can pull your license. Will they? That’s debatable and lets be real here, most people are terrible drivers. LTC holders, by contrast, have been background checked as much or more than anyone else in the state and that LTC will be revoked by the licensing authority for far less of a crime than your driver’s license will be.

          Using regulations on cars as a justification for regulating ownership of firearms is pretty bogus.

        3. I haven’t read all the comments, but wonder about registering each weapon along with its associated licensed owner.

          I want the licensed right to possess a registered weapon. Auto analogy works. Maybe even require insurance.

          Not sure how that interferes with 2nd amendment.

          1. Marc,

            This is covered in Will’s original post, but I’ll reiterate.

            To legally own a gun (handgun, rifle or shotgun) in Massachusetts, a person has to be licensed. That license is issued by the local police chief. The licensee has to complete a training course, a very thorough background check, interview and finger prints (yes, finger prints even if you haven’t committed a crime).

            It’s also easily argued that licensing a right turns it into a privilege. To that point, the police chief can rescind that license as he or she sees fit. The auto analogy doesn’t work because if your driver’s license is rescinded, the state doesn’t confiscate your property (car). You simply can’t drive it on public roads anymore.

  33. Massachusetts should be the first state in the nation to ban all semi-automatic weapons. (Including handguns).

    Semi-automatic weapons have only one purpose.
    To kill human beings rapidly.

    Ban them.

    1. For better or worse, that wouldn’t be consistent with our Supreme Court’s view of the second amendment. Most modern firearms are semiautomatic (trigger pull fires and readies gun for next shot), which should be distinguished from fully automatic (trigger pulled and held fires a continuous stream of bullets).

      As an example of the Supreme Court’s thinking on this, see this language from a the Heller decision

      Some have made the argument, bordering on the frivolous, that only those arms in existence in the 18th century are protected by the Second Amendment. We do not in­terpret constitutional rights that way. Just as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, e.g. , Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union , 521 U. S. 844, 849 (1997), and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, e.g. , Kyllo v. United States , 533 U. S. 27, 35–36 (2001), the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.

      That’s hard to argue with — the first amendment doesn’t just protect printing presses. The second amendment doesn’t just protect muskets.

  34. COMMENTARY BY Nicole Martin
    Freshman at Etowah High School in Woodstock, Georgia, northwest of Atlanta.
    Reports and tips need to be taken seriously. Death is an unchangeable thing, and anyone who jokes about it is sick. A threat is not a joke; it is illegal, and it demands an immediate response.
    Next, teachers should be trained and armed with guns, if they choose to be. I am constantly hearing friends say that if teachers were armed, they would be too scared to shoot back. That is an offensive statement, and it needs to stop.
    A coach at Douglas High died because he ran into the shooting and jumped in front of a bullet. How could anyone say that man would have been afraid to shoot back? He chose to die so his students didn’t have to, yet people say teachers would have been hiding if they had guns.
    Taking away gun rights isn’t going to help the cause. Immediately after our Founding Fathers listed our God-given rights, they decided that every American’s right “to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
    Everyone needs a way to defend himself or herself. I realize that many people simply want to add restrictions to buying a gun for everyone, which I thought seemed reasonable at first until I researched it.
    Some of the most infamous shooters were approved to buy a gun because their previous felonies had not been reported to gun shop owners. Those shooters should not have been approved, but they were.
    The system of background checks needs to be tightened to include felons and those who courts say are mentally ill.
    Taking away Second Amendment rights from everyone is not the solution.

    1. SenatorBrownsberger:

      Thank you very much for this information. I read most of it and am happy about some of it. No background check for private sales and strict mental health laws seem to need attention in my opinion. Something to still think about?

  35. If we are going to discuss safety or crime prevention, then let’s do that. Talking about adding restrictions on people who already go to great lengths to follow the onerous laws in place is a waste and a diversion. Further talk of banning devices and tools has little to do with safety or problem solving.

    If we are going to discuss firearms laws in Massachusetts, we should begin with the fact that the current laws need to be rolled back to once again be in compliance with the US Constitution.

    Tens of thousands of people in the US defend their own lives with a firearm annually in the US. 90% of those acts happen without harm, since it was the presence of a firearm that acted as a deterrent.

    There are so many productive discussions that could be taking place on what is life threatening in the state of Massachusetts. Legal firearms owners are not on the list of threats. We are on the side of life.

  36. Will, please urge Massachusetts to continue to prohibit AR-15 type weapons, and to restrict access to guns of all kinds. Data shows that gun deaths and injuries increase as the number of guns increases. The Second Amendment begins “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, . . . ” so you should hold a hearing on what Massachusetts is doing to administer M.G.L. ch. 33 which deals with the state militia.

    1. The Supreme Court has concluded in the Heller opinion on the Second Amendment that the militia language does not limit the scope of the second amendment right to bear arms.

      Reading the Second Amendment as protecting only the right to “keep and bear Arms” in an organized militia therefore fits poorly with the operative clause’s description of the holder of that right as “the people.”

      For better or for worse, that is the law of the land — the gun control question is not about our militia.

      That said, the legislature will definitely preserve our assault weapons ban — there is no movement to weaken it politically. There is, however, litigation pending in federal court which may reach the question of its constitutionality.

      1. For what it’s worth, the Heller decision was decided 5-4 — just one vote — and the dissent written by Justice John Paul Stevens lays out brilliantly the origins of the Second Amendment and why the majority opinion is so terribly flawed. Alas Heller for now is the law of the land, but it should not be. And the one vote margin in Heller and so many other decisions nowadays makes the theft of the Supreme Court seat for which Obama had nominated the supremely well qualified Merrick Garland all the more egregious. Our federal laws on guns are totally inadequate — and despite all the talk of mental health and other important issues, make no mistake, it’s the proliferation of unregulated guns that is the main problem. The US has about 4.4% of the world’s population; but we have over 40% of the world’s guns. Sorry, but that’s insane.

  37. Thank you for supporting stronger gun control legislation. This is critical, life saving work.

  38. The volume of complaints convinced Seattle police to seek an extreme risk protection order – or ‘erpo’ – which allows law enforcement to legally remove guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

  39. Very helpful to learn about MA gun laws. Is there evidence that these laws are reducing gun crime in the state? And if so , by approximately how much?

    Thank you Will!

  40. Is it legal for guns manufactured in Massachusetts (at Smith and Wesson in Springfield, for example) to be sold elsewhere even though they violate standards for their sale in Massachusetts (AR-15 type assault weapons, for example). If so, do you believe that this should be allowed to continue.
    Why do we have an NRA champion, Ron Armidon, as MA Fish and Game Commissioner? Was his appointment in any way a quid pro quo for GOAL dropping Gov Baker from its suit against Maura Healy for her enhanced enforcement of Massachusetts’ assault weapons ban?

    1. S&W is licensed by the ATF as a manufacturer. The state has no power over S&W as a manufacturer in that regard. The state only has power over what is sold within the state. If those guns are legal elsewhere in the country, why shouldn’t S&W be able to manufacture them?

  41. I speak as the grandson of grandparents who escaped Nazi Germany as the only surviving members of their respective families. History has taught us over and over again the first step to the control of society is to disarm its citizens of their arms. Once the people are unable to resist, by force all other rights are systematically dismantled and tyranny ensues. This is not fiction but the unfortunate legacy of the human race throughout history of time. Some of these words are my own but many have been repeated by others who share similar thoughts and value the good and bad virtues of living in a free society.

    The United States of America is the greatest nation on earth for the unique form of government and protections it has established. The United States is a constitutional republic. Our representatives are selected by democratic elections, but are required by sworn oath to follow our constitution. Even if a majority of Americans want something that goes against our founding principles, our representatives cannot violate our constitutional rights. It is the law.

    Our founders having broken their tyrannical bonds feared a pure democracy was a very dangerous form of government. They understood that a constitution could protect the people by limiting power of any one branch much better than a pure system of popularity. A system of checks and balances was set up to help limit corruption of government and also the potential for an “immoral majority” developing within the American People. No individual including an elected president, senator, congressman, governor, attorney general or police officer has the power to violate our constitutional rights.

    Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote. -Benjamin Franklin

    The verbiage and intent of Second Amendment is very clear and has been supported by the Supreme Court. It gives the people, ordinary citizens, the inalienable right and ability to protect themselves from the threat of tyranny from individuals, organizations and governments including our own.

    The strongest reason for people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. -Thomas Jefferson

    “The Constitution shall never be construed to authorize congress to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens …. from keeping their own arms.” – Samuel Adams

    The Second has been picked apart by the Supreme Court much better than any layman forum poster could pretend to do. The Supreme court ruled that the right to gun ownership was an individual’s right, not merely by membership in a militia. The Second has absolutely nothing to do with hunting or with target shooting and is not limited to protecting only an individual or by any specific arms.

    “Arms in the hands of citizens may be used at individual discretion… “ – John Adams

    “The laws that forbid the carrying of arms …. disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants. They serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” – Thomas Jefferson

    “No free man shall ever be debarred the use of arms.” – Thomas Jefferson

    This country was built on the rights of an individual to bear arms. Ironically the people who voice their opinions against this right have their free speech protected by guns. The controlling powers of the mainstream media like to regurgitate that the Second Amendment is no longer relevant to a modern United States – having such a vast national army and state controlled police force.

    However, that cannot be further from the truth, and is in reality even more necessary in this present day and age. Look at the current plague of dictatorships, communist, socialist governments that have oppressed their citizens across the majority of the world. China, Russia, most of the middle East, Africa and South Africa, Venezuela and much of South America. As we speak much of Europe is in chaos and on the brink of falling to a new round of socialism and communism. None of those countries had a Second Amendment and their citizens were first disarmed then enslaved.

    “Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms.” – James Madison

    “Arms discourage and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property… Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.” – Thomas Paine

    Without the ability of citizens to resist a tyrannically controlled armed force, all other amendments become null and void, simply because “We the People” lose our power of enforcement.

    “To preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them.” – Richard Henry Lee

    The very atmosphere of firearms everywhere restrains evil interference…” -George Washington

    We need to keep this in mind as our sworn protectors of the constitution try to push gun bans. I don’t care if 50%, 75% or 99% of people wearing rose colored glasses are in support of gun bans, it is a violation of our constitutional rights, plain and simple.

    A constitutional republic protects the rights of the individual even when their ideas are very much in the minority. Our framers were very clear on this. Congress could pass gun ban legislation and it just would not matter. I think some people are very unclear on this. This is the reason we have a Supreme Court. A constitutional republic protects the rights of every single citizen, no matter what certain elected representatives say. A majority in America only matters when the constitution is NOT in play. I would hope that our officials come to realize that, regardless of any hand-selected polls, Patriotic Americans still exist, even in Massachusetts.

    “Any man who thinks he can be happy and prosperous by letting the government take care of him — better take a closer look at the American Indian.” Henry Ford

    The Second Amendment is why oppressed people from of the rest of the world want to come to the United States while their governments would prefer to annihilate us. If the U.S.A. succumbs to the false lure of socialism, and succeeds in methodically dismantling our second amendment and constitution there will be no power left in the world to stand up against the next Hitler. I love my family and country much too much to let the horrors that devastated my grandparents happen here.

    1. Thank you Mike, very well said. I also fear we our losing too many of our freedoms. I don’t think our younger generation is being taught enough about the history of the world or our nation. They simply don’t know what they have or what they are being pushed to surrender. We are sliding ever faster down the slippery slope. Why is it that none of the following get any responsibility for gun violence in our society? Hollywood’s extreme violence in movies, the video gaming industries extremely graphic violent products, the lack of a will to truly address mental illness, the over prescribing of many drugs, the decline of the family structure and values in the home, poor and irresponsible parenting, vast bureaucratic ineptness, lax enforcement of existing gun laws, open borders allowing the proliferation of drugs, gangs, and illegal guns onto our streets, a desensitized youth culture, and a morally declining American society. They all get a free pass every time. The knee jerk reaction by liberals to every violent gun crime is to attack the 2nd Amendment, the NRA, and to pursue even more restrictive laws on the law abiding citizen.

  42. Tragedy with guns is unfortunate BUT how come this issue raises more public ire when the US spent $2 trillion on Iraq and caused at least one million deaths.
    Most of the shooters have been psychologically impaired. Where is spending and support for mental health in this country? What if someone chooses another weapon? How many laws does the US need to curb what this country avoids?
    The response to the FL shootings is a diversion that allows sanctimonious people to run rampant.

  43. I am the oldest son of Norwegian man who was forced to work for the Nazis. He came to the US with PTSD big time. He saw the biggest maritime disaster in history (Wilhelm Gustloff, Pillau, East Prussia). His best friend died after returning from Bergen-Belsen.
    The US is NOT the greatest country on earth!!!
    Tragedy with guns is unfortunate BUT how come this issue raises more public ire when the US spent $2 trillion on Iraq and caused at least one million deaths.
    Most of the shooters have been psychologically impaired. Where is spending and support for mental health in this country? What if someone chooses another weapon? How many laws does the US need to curb what this country avoids?
    The response to the FL shootings is a diversion that allows sanctimonious people to run rampant.

  44. Massachusetts must ban the manufacture of assault weapons which are intended to be sold to out of state private citizens.

    Assault rifles produced in Massachusetts must come with a license which prevents the resale of these weapons to private citizens. They should be sold only to law enforcement or the military.

    Connecticut needs to implement the same.

    Massachusetts is home to Smith and Wesson, Connecticut is home to Colt firearms.

    We can not continue to promote Massachusetts as a model for gun legislation on one hand while we make money selling the weapons we believe should not be available with the other.

    Yes this will cost us taxes and jobs but it is the right thing to do.

  45. We are strongly in favor of helping to prevent sometimes accidental deaths or injuries from gunshots by confiscating guns from those adequately and lawfully deemed at risk of causing them.
    Please support this legislation

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