Roy Hill and I were on the blower the other day. I was trying to convince the Arkansas firearms instructor and TTAG gun reviewer to write a piece on “America’s Five Stupidest Gun Laws.” I suggested Massachusetts’ prohibition against high capacity magazines, a law that imposes a $10k fine and one-year minimum jail sentence for simple possession. How does forcing a criminal to reload after 10 shots—presuming they would or wouldn’t do so—stop, prevent or minimize gun violence? Where’s the data relating mag capacity to carnage? And what’s the likelihood that criminals will obey the law, given that there are no such restrictions in any of the states surrounding Massachusetts? Meanwhile, the law limits legal gun owner’ ability to defend themselves. And now let’s talk about firearms storage in the Bay State . . .
Section 131L. (a) It shall be unlawful to store or keep any firearm, rifle or shotgun including, but not limited to, large capacity weapons, or machine gun in any place unless such weapon is secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device, properly engaged so as to render such weapon inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user.
Personally, I believe that there are only two places for a firearm: locked in a safe or in a holster on your hip. Oh wait. You can’t holster a shotgun or rifle or schlep it from room to room in your house (never leaving your warm, alive hands). And when you’re sleeping, what then?
If someone breaks into your house in the dead of night, you’re SOL. Chances are you won’t have the time to unlock your properly secured home defense gun. And even if you do, good luck with that. Adrenalin turns memory to mush, hands into flippers and seconds into minutes.
The Massachusetts law was designed to prevent children from shooting themselves with unsecured weapons. You know, if one child is saved by this law, then STFU. According to kidsandguns.org, just four children aged zero to 19 died from firearms accidents in The Bay State from 2000 to 2005. Success!
We’ll just compare that to the number of people injured or killed during home invasions during the same time period and . . . oh dear. No data. Well, countless lives must have been saved, right?
Anyway, the Massachusetts Appeals Court has ruled that the storage law has limits. In the COMMONWEALTH vs. BRANDON LOJKO, Mr. Lojko was convicted of violating the statute when the police found his Glock locked in its Glock box—in an Igloo plastic cooler.
The Commonwealth’s theory of culpability was that, even though the handgun was stored in a locked box, the box and the lock were inadequate, and, further, that the gun was not “secure” because anyone could walk away with the cooler in which the gun was hidden or with the locked box itself. The judge adopted the Commonwealth’s latter theory, framing the issue as “whether the gun was maintained in a locked and secured location.” The judge found the defendant guilty on the ground that, “although . . . the gun was locked,” it was not in a “secured location.” . . .
At the trial of a criminal complaint charging the defendant with improper storage of a firearm, in violation of G. L. c. 140, § 131L(a), the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that the defendant failed to keep the fireann secured in a locked container, where neither the statute nor case law requires a gun owner who keeps a firearm secured in a locked container to also store that container in a secure location, and therefore, it was of no consequence that the defendant placed the securely locked box containing the firearm in a portable plastic cooler. [83-85]
Mr. Lojko’s attorney also argued that the Massachusetts law on firearms storage was unconstitutional, post-Heller. The Appeals court deferred to COMMONWEALTH vs. RICHARD RUNYAN, which ruled that the stricture was not a violation of Bay State residents’ constitutional right to bear arms.