Massachusetts New Gun Law “May Issue.” Or Is It?

bearingarms.com took a look at Massachusetts’ new, post-Newtown gun control legislative package and highlighted the bit that infringes upon (a.k.a., “guts”) residents’ natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. It’s a “may issue” proviso that continues to give local police chiefs the power to deny firearms owners ID cards and carry permit if they reckon the applicants isn’t a “suitable person.” This part of the law has come under considerable heat from gun rights advocates. And so the pols changed the law to include the words “shall issue.” Question: when is a change in the law not a change in the law? When it reads like this [bold added]. . .

SECTION 21. Section 129B of said chapter 140, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out paragraph (1) and inserting in place thereof the following paragraph:- (1) Any person residing or having a place of business within the jurisdiction of the licensing authority or any person residing in an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction located within a city or town may submit to the licensing authority an application for a firearm identification card, or renewal of the same, which the licensing authority shall issue if it appears that the applicant is not a prohibited person . . .

Notwithstanding other provisions of paragraph (1) to the contrary, the licensing authority may deny the application or renewal of a firearm identification card, or suspend or revoke a card issued under this section, if in the reasonable exercise of discretion, the licensing authority determines that the applicant or card holder is unsuitable to be issued or to continue to hold a firearm identification card. A determination of unsuitability shall be based on: (i) reliable and credible information that the applicant or card holder has exhibited or engaged in behavior that suggests the applicant or card holder could potentially create a risk to public safety if issued a card; or (ii) existing factors that suggest that the applicant or card holder could potentially create a risk to public safety if issued a card. Upon denying an application or renewal of a card based on a determination of unsuitability, the licensing authority shall notify the applicant in a writing setting forth the specific reasons for such determination as set forth in paragraph (3). Upon revoking or suspending a card based on a determination of unsuitability, the licensing authority shall notify the holder of a license in a writing setting forth the specific reasons for such determination as set forth in paragraph (4). The determination of unsuitability shall be subject to judicial review as set forth in paragraph (5).

If you need a gun control-shaped hole to drive a truck through, I suggest “existing factors.” “Suggested” existing factors, in fact. Suggesting existing factors that pose a “potential” risk to public safety.

Bob Owens at Bearing Arms reckons the new language could disqualify an applicant for “anything from supporting the ‘wrong’ political party, to joining the ‘wrong’ Facebook group, to living in the ‘wrong’ neighborhood, or associating with the ‘wrong’ people, even though you have broken no laws.”

I say culture eats language for lunch. The prevailing culture among Massachusetts politicians and bureaucrats? Guns are bad. They’ll do whatever they can to keep law-abiding citizens from having “easy access” to firearms – with no appreciable effect on crime. Until the Bay State returns to the values upon which it was based, protecting or restoring gun rights will always be an uphill fight.

That said . . .

The Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League is celebrating the bill’s new language. The believe the bill puts the burden on the licensing authorities to prove that an applicant is unsuitable. In other words, they call the above language “shall issue.” Here’s their presser:

Today marks a great victory for Second Amendment advocates in Massachusetts. As of this morning, a new version of H.4121 has been released by the House Ways and Means Committee. The new number is H.4278. The new version is a tremendously different piece of legislation from the original version and that is a direct result of your efforts. The vast amount of phone calls, emails, letters, and personal contacts forced vast changes to the bill.

Changes include:

– Getting rid of the one year misdemeanor disqualifier [ED: the bit that MA police opposed.]
– Removing restriction and “reason” from the FID card language;
Changing the “suitability” issues to place the burden on the licensing authority to prove an individual a threat to public safety;
– Changed the suicide study language that previously only included firearms to include all types of suicide;
– Ensuring that people seeking voluntary mental health treatment or observation are not included in the NICs information;
– Added the term “prohibited person” to FID and LTC language;
– Removing language regarding vast changes in training;
– Adding language to protect the trainers of youth with firearms;
– Creating strong crime language including GOAL’s Criminal Firearms Division

We have been very successful in changing the gun language in this bill, that GOAL has now told the legislature that we are neutral on the bill. Why neutral? Because there are a lot of sections in the bill that don’t affect firearms law such as school safety, mental health and other matters that certain legislators may not be comfortable with. While not perfect, the changes show how effective you have been. We will still have to be vigilant today during the debates to make sure that no adverse amendments are passed.

You know me: I don’t think there should be ANY gun control laws. Period. What’s your take on this revision?

comments

  1. avatar Anonymous says:

    Ralph should go on a protest – walk the streets, sign and all.

  2. avatar Craig says:

    What’s my take? Law suit, Mass Supreme Court upholds this law because Mass’ constitution has a public right to keep and bear arms, not an individual one, the 1st District upholds this, and maybe SCOTUS takes the case and overturns it.

    But that’s a lot of guessing.

    1. avatar Anonymous says:

      Ralph was once a lawyer. Ralph could spearhead the lawsuit.

      I want to hear Ralph’s take on this since we all know he owns some guns and lives in Massachusetts.

      1. avatar Ralph says:

        My take — this law is a piece of sh1t and GOAL is all wet.

        1. avatar Rad Man says:

          I’m MA lawyer and FFL and as long as suitability is subject to judicial review AFTER they take your rights away without due process, how is this an improvement GOAL?

  3. avatar Travis M says:

    The fewer may issue states there are, makes it more likely it will be abolished, I’d think.

    1. avatar Excedrine says:

      You would think so, anyway. But, I don’t see this nonsense going away within my lifetime, unfortunately, and I’m only 27.

  4. avatar C says:

    “existing factors that suggest that the applicant or card holder could potentially create a risk to public safety if issued a card”

    For instance, wanting to own a gun.

  5. avatar Nathanael says:

    The local powers that be will likely abuse this, and the courts will get to sort it out.

  6. avatar Frank Masotti says:

    As goes Mas so goes the rest of the communist states of america. (Tongue and cheek.)

  7. avatar Sixpack70 says:

    I left MA about 15 months ago. Even with the craptastic gun laws I was able to get a LTC-A because I lived in a 2A friendly town. I’m glad I wasn’t close to Boston because I know the police chiefs around there cause problems. I found a Saiga 12 for dirt cheap in West Springfield during Firearmageddon in 2013 among other guns that shocked me. I converted my Saiga 7.62 while there and had three pre ban mags. What I really hated is that I lived near a state forest and I was unable to go plinking due to state laws. I would have had to join a gun club and sometimes you just want to relax and shoot a few pop cans with a .22 without range safeties.

    1. avatar Gunr says:

      MA, Good place to be FROM!

      1. avatar Sixpack70 says:

        I was forced to live there for two years. My other choice was CA. Bullet buttons, bleh!

        1. avatar Ralph says:

          Sixpack70, like you I have an unrestricted LTC-A because the Chief of the town where it was issued (Barnstable) is not anti-gun. If I lived in Boston, I would have been stuck with a restricted LTC-A, which means no concealed carry in public.

          I still find it amusing that I can walk around Boston well-armed while my licensed friends who live there cannot.

  8. avatar Scrubula says:

    I say let someone take this to the supreme court so it can never happen again.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      SCOTUS won’t take this case and wouldn’t throw out the law if it did.

      Stop thinking that SCOTUS is going to right all wrongs. It won’t. It can’t. We are our own first responders. If we can’t save ourselves, nobody else will.

  9. avatar Robert says:

    GOAL should still be against it. I am. Here is why:

    Changing “may issue” to “shall issue” (I think GOAL is correct that placing the burden on the police will in effect, make them have to issue them to everyone who is not specifically disqualified) is no big deal because MA is basically “shall issue” these days anyway in practice. I don’t know anyone rejected for an unrestricted permit. Not me. Not my wife. Not my mother. No one. Yes, I know people are, but even in the tougher places in the city, 70% of permits are issued unrestricted – and in suburbs, 98-100% are.

    Now the bad stuff… no more private sales. This means that selling a used gun now costs $25 and has to happen at a gun store. Lame when MA requires a gun permit that had a background check to begin with. In other words, you cannot sell a gun to someone who has not had a background check as it is because they have to present a permit.

    This will also mean that you can no longer sell your pre-1998 Glock, because a dealer cannot transfer it unless you can prove that you had it in the state before 1998. Maybe you are organized, but I don’t have the receipts for my old guns.

    Storage laws – if you let your 17 year old have access to his 10-22 rifle, it is a MINIMUM of 4 years in jail and a max of 15 years, AND a $20,000 fine. I know what you are thinking – they will only charge you for that if he kills someone. Probably true, but just the specter of it means that you can basically never leave a gun unlocked.

    1. avatar Robert says:

      I may be wrong on the dealer thing. Looks like they updated it so that anyone can run the check on their own computer without a dealer. That is way less bad.

      1. avatar Robert says:

        It still says “subject to such restrictions relative to the possession, use or carrying of firearms as the licensing authority deems proper”

        So basically they will grant a permit but restrict it to target shooting only and don’t have to give a reason for that.

        So GOAL should not be neutral at least until that is changed.

    2. avatar Sixpack70 says:

      You are right on with this. People get popped all of the time for the BS gun laws in MA. I did one private sale in the state and it still required going online to fill out the form and put our LTC-A numbers into the system. What more do you need?

    3. avatar Red Sox says:

      This state is a “may issue”, I live in Springfield and I am restricted to target and hunting because this cesspool does not accept “for all lawful purposes”. But every surrounding town is CC and there is no specific state law against OC. So a potential D-bag from next town over who pays taxes to same can carry in my town but I cannot carry anywhere in the state. I could however take the Utah course in my state and be licensed to CC in 31 states except my own.

      1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

        That definitely sucks. And I thought I had it bad being able to OPEN carry in Oklahoma with my Texas concealed handgun license, but still being restricted only to concealed carry in my own state.

      2. avatar Steve says:

        I believe that MA is still a “shall issue” state and will be subject to the objectionable sections noted above. I received my LTC stating “for all lawful purposes” etc., etc., Seems your licensing authority in Springfield deserves a challenge. Check GOAL. There has been a lawyer helping with these types of infractions for free…not sure if he/she is still active..

  10. avatar Excedrine says:

    A better change would have been to sweep all of the TAXachusetts gun control laws from their books, period. But, I guess a guy can dream.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      Except for the blue law that requires all able bodied men to carry their guns to church; locked and loaded 🙂

  11. avatar Another Robert says:

    My take? “It’s Massachusetts, Jake…”

  12. avatar esitue says:

    So essentially it’s the same as Hitler’s Reasonable Gun Control
    Exactly the same, and for the same reasons

  13. avatar former water walker says:

    Glad I live in Illinois( not really-but this s#it is horrible). And I had gun people tell me I should move to Indiana because Illinois would never have CC. Yep file suit.So much for the “shot heard ’round the world”.

  14. avatar bob says:

    The second amendment is very clear. This is written to be unclear…
    which the licensing authority shall issue if it appears that the applicant is not a prohibited person . . .

    Notwithstanding other provisions of paragraph (1) to the contrary, the licensing authority may deny the application or renewal of a firearm identification card, or suspend or revoke a card issued under this section, if in the reasonable exercise of discretion, the licensing authority determines that the applicant or card holder is uns

  15. avatar Full Cleveland says:

    So Mass. reads our Constitution to say this…… A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of some people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

    Way down south in the land of cotton.
    Guns down there are not verbotten.
    Move away. Move away. Move away.
    To Dixieland!

  16. avatar Tom Meyer says:

    I’m a MA resident, and I’m still processing this. That said, the shall issue language — however bad — seems to be slight improvement over what we currently have.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      I have not compared past law to this either and doubt that I will. My understanding is that MA law is “shall issue” and the new is the same but provides a bunch of provisions where a license won’t be issued and then closes as noted above with the ‘if the LA wants to deny they may’ (my phrasing).

      1. avatar Tom Meyer says:

        As things currently stand, it’s entirely at the discretion of the local PD (the license is *issued* locally, but is good statewide). Some cities and towns are terrible, but some are reasonable, even if the system isn’t. I’m one of the lucky ones in the metro Boston area.

  17. avatar Gov. William J. Le Petomane says:

    ‘They’ll do whatever they can to keep law-abiding citizens from having “easy access” to firearms – with no appreciable effect on crime.’

    RF, I thought you read John Lott? The effect on crime WILL be appreciable, there will be more of it.

  18. avatar SelousX says:

    …or you could have real shall-issue, such as here in the great state of Washington.
    Just sayin’…

  19. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

    “Shall issue if…” sounds a lot like “Support the Second Amendment but…”

  20. avatar C.S. says:

    If 90% of the people get approved for a license, instead of the other way around… we shall see…

  21. avatar Jaymo says:

    OK I live in MA and have for my entire life ( ya I know I can’t leave) MA is both a “Shall issue” (this is for FID or long arms only) and a “May issue” (this is for Handguns) state. In my opinion this language is a huge step forward for us lawful gun owners. There are also huge sections of the bill that were left out of this article. The new language is much more geared toward a “shall issue” for no restrictions than what we here currently have on the books. If you are given any restrictions the licensing authority has to support with facts why they gave you restrictions!
    As for the private sales, they took out the language from the bill that requires you to make the transfer at a dealer so it’s basically the same as what it is now.

    Again this is nowhere near grate but for those of us that live in the people’s republic of MA is a big step in the right direction, at least from my point of view.

  22. avatar Mike says:

    Yeah, IL has a “shall issue if” clause too, so far there have been 800 denials in the 6 months our CCLs have been available. Denials held up in secret hearings with no explanations as to why. Now there are several hundred lawsuits with which my grand childrens tax dollars (state is so far in the red they have already spent the tax dollars that my 3 young children and I will make ever make) will have to pay for. We’re hoping the legislature fixes the obvious error but I won’t hold my breath for fear of suffocating.

    1. avatar lizzrd says:

      800 denials out of 80,000 applications. Not too bad percentage-wise.

  23. avatar koolaidedude says:

    So I am a little late to the party on this one. Somebody clarify, you have to have a F.I.D. just to OWN a firearm?

    1. avatar TimB says:

      In MA, you have to have an FID just to go to the gun store and look at and purchase firearms, including paintball and air guns. It alone doesn’t mean you can own one. Depending on what you want to purchase, you might need a class B LTC license to be in legal possession of it. For example, a Ruger 10/22 with a 10 round autoloading magazine qualifies (by the wording of the law) as a high capacity semi-auto assault rifle and requires a class B LTC to be in possession of it.

      http://www.goal.org/masslawpages/licensestructure.html

  24. avatar TimB says:

    My thinking is this post is a little late and should have come out before it became law. LEO’s are going to key in on the “could potentially create a risk to public safety if issued a card” phrasing and use that to justify denying licenses. So much for probable cause and due process. Anyone could say the issuance of that license could create a risk to public safety. It’s a true statement. The problem with it is we have this thing in this country called due process, that protects us from assumptions and forces the authorities to prove that something wrong was done, not that it could happen. This violates every aspect of how our legal system works.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      You may be correct in that the group here could have been a bit forewarned. In MA GOAL was very active and had membership at all the open forum public meetings. These appeared after the fact as only for show of due process and the first iteration of the law was even more flawed than the final that rallies at the state house and calls to officials that GOAL organized. So in-state we were fairly ‘in-the-game’. Generally MA as it was is very regulated and IMO it is a waste of taxpayer money bordering now on the negligence to legislate now the minutia in and around gun ownership.

  25. avatar Bob says:

    This is just one of many layers in Ma that work to deny 2A rights. The leading candidate for State’s AG is aggressively promoting tighter and more restrictive guns laws.

    http://warrentolman.com/smartguns/
    “Despite the groundswell of support for new national gun violence prevention legislation in the days and weeks following the Newtown massacre, Congress succumbed to the pressure of the NRA and the uniquely unregulated gun industry and failed to take action. It is clear that the NRA has a stranglehold on Washington and that true reform will have to come from the states.

    In Massachusetts, innovative solutions are right at our fingertips. Just as your fingerprint can be used to unlock your iPhone, fingerprint technology can be used to operate firearms. Doing so would ensure that a firearm could be operated only by its rightful owner or designees. Gun manufacturers have the technology to do this today.

    This would help take the guns out of the hands of criminals who steal them. It would protect us from the tragedy of children and teens who accidentally or by choice are killed by guns left unsecured in the home. It could even save the lives of law enforcement officers, as 17 percent of police who die in the line of duty are killed by criminals who get access to the officer’s gun.

    All this could be done without impinging on Second Amendment rights. It’s about improving safety, and restricting access to prohibited users. It’s a sensible response, using technology that’s readily available today.

    The state’s consumer protection statute (Chapter 93A) allows the attorney general to regulate firearms and further protect the citizens of the Commonwealth from undue harm. This has been used for everything from protecting consumers from fraud to ensuring that toy guns and teddy bears don’t have sharp edges or tags that could cut or become choking hazards. It’s time we use the power of this law to protect the health and safety of our citizens to do what Congress can’t — require gun manufacturers to utilize existing personalized gun technology for all weapons sold in the Commonwealth.”

  26. avatar Ralph says:

    Please note that the MA firearms identity card (FID) is exclusively for traditional hunting long arms — bolt action, lever action, single shot, pump shottys — but not for modern sporting rifles. With an FID, the licensee can transport, carry and shoot (where legal) those traditional long arms for target, sport or hunting.

    AR pattern rifles are considered “high capacity” and require an LTC-A, which is also the pistol carry permit. It covers all types of rifles and handguns.

    The LTC-B covers FID-type long arms and non-high capacity handguns (like revolvers for example), and does not entitle the holder to carry handguns in public.

    FID cards have been “shall issue” for as long as I am aware. LTCs, whether Class A or Class B (whether restricted or unrestricted) have been “may issue” for as long as I can remember.

  27. avatar Jus Bill says:

    As long as the Democratic Gentry (i.e., the Kennedy family and their machine) owns Massachusetts there is no hope of it ever becoming a “shall issue” state. Similarly with NYC and Maryland. We just go through the motions of voting. Nothing changes.

  28. avatar Paco says:

    The original bill was far worse, but again this is more hacking away at away at was once a right, now subjugated to a regulated(highly) privilege.

  29. avatar Kyle says:

    Considering it’s a super super blue state (Senator Elizabeth Warren anyone?) I’d say the people there are lucky if they are not seeking to ban weapons like the AR-15.

    1. avatar Steve says:

      It will come unless the force of this fades with OB. EW is definitely on the team. Perhaps she will fade also during the next election.

  30. avatar rlc2 says:

    Another late comment on an aging article- but relevant-

    Why hasn’t this gotten more attention, I wonder- up to a year seizure of guns by CT – double what it was 4 years ago, and 5 times when it came out 15 years ago.

    http://savannahnow.com/news/2014-07-06/states-look-gun-seizure-law-after-mass-killings#.U7oN2_ZBHZs

    Basically- this is what CA’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law will look like in practice…
    h/t Jeff Soyer at Alphecca:

    http://www.alphecca.com/?p=3443

    “Be careful what you say, including online…all it takes is a he-said, she-said call to the judges…”

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