The state of Massachusetts isn’t known as being among the most firearms friendly in the union. And like many others, it treats US citizens and legal immigrants differently, denying some gun rights to resident aliens (RAs). And the Bay State makes the process about as infuriating as possible. Now two RAs from the UK, Eoin Pryal and Christopher Fletcher, have filed suit against their respective police departments and the the director of Massachusetts’ Firearms Records Bureau claiming violations of their constitutional rights. And that’s where things get complicated…
Mass (I just can keep typing the whole damned thing) does issue resident aliens permits which allow them to possess “low capacity” (an entirely separate idiocy, but not a part of the suit) rifles or shotguns. But it’s a mystery how RAs are supposed to actually get one of these guns because the state also prevents them from purchasing guns, magazines or ammunition. Either from an FFL or from an individual.
So not only are RAs prevented from legally purchasing a gun they can legally own, it’s not clear what they’re supposed to actually do with one (once they magically acquire it) since they can’t legally buy ammunition it. Still with me?
Both plaintiffs applied for and were denied Mass licenses to carry, the state’s requirement for purchasing a handgun. Both wanted to purchase the guns for self defense in their homes. And, as you’d expect, both were explicitly denied because of their resident alien status.
Also named as plaintiffs in the suit are gun rights supporters the Second Amendment Foundation and Mass’s Commonwealth Second Amendment, Inc. The suit claims that the state’s refusal to issue licenses to carry to RAs is a violation of the second amendment and the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment.
Now, as you might expect, there are a number of gray areas here. A biggie is the extent to which RAs enjoy rights under the second and fourteenth amendments. In support of the state’s position, the Mass AG wrote:
Plaintiffs have failed to state any claim under the Second Amendment, as that provision only protects certain rights of citizens and does not extend to aliens…because the Second Amendment allows the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to treat citizens and non-citizens differently in granting firearms licenses, as a matter of law the commonwealth’s statutes that do so cannot violate the Equal Protection clause.
I’m not an attorney. I’m not good looking enough to play one on TV. But I have to come down on the side of the state in this one. I’m not sure that it’s in our best interests to extend second amendment privileges to non-citizens. And I’m not smart enough to interpret the emanations and penumbras of constitutional law to figure out how resident aliens can be treated. Rights-wise, that is.
As the suit details, before moving to Mass, Dr. Fletcher enjoyed more liberal (in the traditional sense of the word) gun rights in California. No, that’s not a misprint. That’s a judgement the state of California made. Mass has a different standard. A standard they should be free to make regarding non-US citizens living in their jurisdiction. It will be interesting to watch this one.