It’s come to this: it’s now news when the state of Massachusetts decides to comply with court orders requiring them to reinstate firearms licenses for some applicants. They may be relenting, but they’re still not making it easy.
“It’s a waste of time; it’s a waste of resources,” said Jason A. Guida, a former attorney for a state firearms board who has represented more than a dozen people who successfully appealed to win back their license, including a former state trooper. “Both individual license holders and local police departments are still being forced to go to court at their expense and litigate these issues, knowing full well that not a single judge has ruled in support of this administration’s decision.”
What brought all of this about?
The legal clash began in May, when state officials told local chiefs that the state’s Firearm Licensing Review Board, created in 2004 to consider whether people with misdemeanor criminal convictions could have a firearms license, had been clearing applicants who the administration said should be otherwise disqualified under federal rules. The state’s new interpretation was prompted by arguments from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
State officials then urged chiefs — by law, the firearm licensing authority — to pull licenses from roughly 340 people.
Because why not? This is, after all, the state where Attorney General Maura Healey decided to become a law unto herself, unilaterally re-interpreted the state’s gun laws and outlawed the sale of scary-looking black rifles.
A number of those whose tickets were pulled sued, arguing that nothing in the law prevents them from obtaining a government permission slip to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
…(I)n at least 14 cases, district court judges have ruled in the petitioner’s favor, saying either the state had overstepped its legal authority or, in one recent case, relied on an “erroneous legal interpretation,” according to a judge who ruled in favor of Phil Jones, a West Roxbury man who the state had originally cleared to own a gun in 2005.
The state defied the rulings, though…until now. Word has apparently come down from Governor Charlie Baker’s administration to local chiefs of police that the state will no longer oppose reinstatement of the permits in the face of court orders.
But in Massachusetts, extremism in defense of civilian disarmament isn’t a vice. The state will only approve permits they are ordered to issue by a court. Which means that all of those who have lost their gun rights will have to sue to get them back. The state is banking that most of the affected individuals won’t want to go to the trouble or expense.
(Phil) Jones, who had his gun license revoked following a 1998 drunk-driving conviction, had successfully petitioned for reinstatement before the state’s review board in 2005, only to have Boston police strip it again in the wake of the state’s May directive.
He said he has since spent at least $2,500 in legal costs and transfer fees for the firearms he had turn over. “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” he said.
So Bay Staters who have been wrongly stripped of their gun permits by the state are going to have to buck up to get them back.