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A Summary of The New Firearms Law
During its 1998 session, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted comprehensive legislation that substantially modifies the laws regulating the licensing and possession of firearms, and other weapons. Chapters 180 and of the Acts of 1998 (both effective October 21, 1998).
Some of the more crucial aspects of this legislation for police chiefs are the changes in the nature of, and licensing standards for licenses to carry firearms and firearms identification cards. Additional provisions address a ban on assault weapons and covert weapons, the enhancement of gun safety, the imposition of restrictions on firearms dealers, the availability of commercial storage for firearms, an increase in penalties for firearms related offenses, changes in certain domestic violence procedures, and the establishment of a Firearm Record Keeping Trust Fund.
License to carry firearms
There is now one class of license to carry (LTC) firearms: Class A.
A Class A LTC authorizes the possession and carrying of large capacity firearms, rifles, shotguns, and feeding devices. (A weapon is large capacity if it is a semi-automatic and has or is able to accept a feeding device of more than ten rounds of ammunition or more than five shotgun shells or is an assault weapon.) A Class A LTC is required in order to carry any loaded firearm in a concealed manner in a public way or place.
No person under the age of twenty-one may be issued either a Class A. LTC’s have a four year term and are renewable as discussed below.
Firearms Identification cards [FID Cards]
An FID Card authorizes the possession and carrying of non-large capacity rifles and shotguns. An FID Card may, at the request of the applicant, be limited to the possession of mace and other incapacitating sprays. Whereas FID Cards had previously been issued for life, they now have a four year term.
No person under the age of fifteen may be issued an FID Card. No person who is fifteen but less than eighteen years of age may obtain an FID Card without parental permission.
The circumstances under which a person shall be statutorily disqualified from obtaining a Class A to Carry, or an FID Card have been expanded. A person is now disqualified if he/she:
has been convicted (or adjudicated delinquent or as a youthful offender) of a felony, a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years imprisonment, a violent crime, or a weapons or drug offense.
has been confined to a hospital or institution for mental illness, unless he has an affidavit from a physician stating he is not disabled by such illness in a manner that prevents him from possessing of a firearm.
is or has been under treatment for or confinement for a drug addiction or habitual drunkenness, unless deemed cured by a physician.
is an alien
is subject to an outstanding arrest warrant
is subject to a suspension or surrender order or a protection order issued pursuant to M.G.L. C. 209A
With respect to FID Cards, but not LTC’s, the disqualifications for criminal convictions do not apply after five years from the date of conviction or release from incarceration or supervision, except that there is a lifetime disqualification for violent crimes or crimes involving the trafficking in drugs.
Upon the occurrence of a disqualifying event, the license or permit that had been issued shall be revoked or suspended.
LTC’s and FID Cards are now valid for a four year period, and are subject to earlier suspension or revocation.
MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO: TOWN OF NORTHBRIDGE
The fee for all licenses is $100.00 total: Breakdown: $50 – Commonwealth of Massachusetts; $25.00 Licensing Authority (Northbridge Police Department); $25 Firearms Fingerprint Identity Verification Trust Fund. The purpose of this state fund is to improve the quality of record keeping regarding firearms transfers and to improve access by police departments to state firearms records. Money for training is also within the scope of the purposes for fund expenditures. There is no renewal fee for persons over the age of 70, or for the renewal of an FID Card issued solely for the purchase of mace.
Applicants for Class A to Carry, FID Cards, or Permits to Purchase, who were not licensed on June 1, 1998, are required to submit a certificate of completion of a basic firearms safety course, or a certificate of completion of a hunting safety course issued by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. Certificates of course completion are not required for FID Cards issued for the sole purpose of purchasing or possessing mace or other incapacitating sprays.
No License to Carry or FID Card may be issued unless the Colonel of the State Police certifies in writing that the information available to him does not indicate that the applicant is disqualified (The Colonel may ask for change in the law so that records checks may continue to be done by local licensing authorities).
A chief may issue a Class A to a non-disqualified person who is “suitable” and who has “good reason to fear injury to his person or property, or for any other reason, including the carrying of firearms for use in sport or target practice only.”
A chief may impose such restrictions as he deems “proper” relative to the possession, use or carrying of the weapons authorized by the respective licenses. A violation of a restriction is cause for a suspension or revocation and is punishable by fine, but it does not negate the validity of the license for purposes of M.G.L. C. 269, ß 10 (Bartley-Fox).
Photographs and fingerprints are required for FID Cards as well as Licenses to Carry.
The Colonel of the State Police may issue a Class A LTC to a shooting club, incorporated in Massachusetts, with at least one shareholder qualified and suitable to be issued a Class A LTC, for the purpose of possessing, storing and using large capacity weapons, ammunition and feeding devices on club premises. A licensed club may not use targets depicting human figures or silhouettes, except by public safety personnel in the performance of official duties.
A person must have a Class A LTC in order to carry or possess a loaded firearm in a concealed manner in a public place or way.
It is unlawful to carry a loaded firearm under a Class A LTC in a vehicle unless the firearm is under the licensee’s direct control.
It is unlawful to possess a large capacity rifle or shotgun under a Class A in a vehicle unless it is unloaded and contained in the locked trunk or locked in a secure container.
It is unlawful for a licensed person to carry a loaded rifle or shotgun on a public way unless engaged in hunting and in possession of a hunting license.
It is unlawful for a licensed person to carry an unloaded rifle or shotgun on a public way unless engaged in hunting and in possession of a hunting license, or unless the rifle or shotgun is enclosed in a case.
It is unlawful to carry a loaded weapon while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The penalties for violating numerous statutes are increased if the violator was armed at the time of the offense.
Additionally, penalties for possession offenses are increased if a large capacity weapon is involved.
There is a new statute, M.G.L. C.269, ß 10F, that makes it a criminal offense to unlawfully sell or transfer large capacity weapons.
Another new statute, M.G.L. C.269, ß 10G, imposes escalating penalties on “armed career criminals.”
The 1998 Legislation bans the possession, sale and transfer of assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices that were not lawfully possessed on the effective date of the federal ban (September 13, 1994). The legislation also bans the possession and sale of so-called gadget guns and weapons that are not detectable by x-ray machines or walk-through metal detectors.
Inferior or junk guns (i.e. firearms that do not pass statutorily specified testing standards) may not be sold or transferred if they were not lawfully owned or possessed under a license issued under M.G.L. C.140 on October 21, 1998.
Dealers are required to verify the current validity of all licenses and permits presented, and to confiscate any license or permit that is expired, suspended or revoked. All transactions must be conducted in person.
Records of weapons sales, rentals and leases are to be submitted immediately to the Criminal History Systems Board by way of electronic link. Reports must also specify if the weapon is a large capacity weapon.
Dealers are required to have a permanent place of business that is separate from a residence or dwelling.
Dealers are required to post and give to purchasers written notice it is unlawful to store a weapon unless it is equipped with a tamper-resistant safety device or is kept in a securely locked container. The licensing authority is required to conduct an inventory and records inspection annually.
Licensed dealers who operate a bonded warehouse on the premises may, at the request of the police chief, store weapons that have been confiscated, surrendered, or otherwise turned over to the police. The owner of a confiscated or surrendered weapon is responsible for storage charges.
Transition [Grandfather] Provisions
(a) Licenses to Carry will expire on the expiration date shown on the License and FID Cards issued prior to October 21, 1998 expire according to the following staggered schedule:
if the licensee’s birthday is between July 1 and December 31, it expires on his birthday in 1999.
if the licensee’s birthday is between January 1 and June 30, it expires on his birthday in 2000. (The license of a person born on February 29 expires on March 1.)
(b) An FID Card possessed on October 21, 1998 by a person in lawful possession of a large capacity rifle or shotgun shall be considered a Class A for possession purposes.
(c) An LTC possessed on October 21, 1998 shall be deemed a Class A LTC.
(d) Any person who lawfully owns a large capacity or non-large capacity firearm or feeding device on October 21, 1998 that was purchased with a Permit to Purchase (Chapter 140, section 131A) unless such firearm and feeding device are transferred in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 140, shall apply for an FID Card. Unless disqualified, the Card Shall be issued. If not issued the weapon and feeding device shall be surrendered in accordance with Section 129D. The requirements for obtaining an FID Card under Section 129B shall not apply if the person possesses a valid proof of exemption under section 129C. Such person may not possess or carry any firearm outside his residence unless he obtains a Class A.
(e) The requirement that dealers submit sales records at the time of the transaction by electronic communication link shall not apply until September 1, 1999. (Dealers are currently required to submit records on a weekly basis.)
(f) The requirement that licensed dealers maintain a permanent place of business that is not a dwelling or residence shall not apply until September 1, 1999.
(g) The prohibitions against inferior and so-called junk guns do not apply to any firearm lawfully owned or possessed under a license issued under M.G.L. C. 140 on October 21, 1998.
(h) The requirement that a person must 21 years of age to have a License to Carry does not apply to a person who is a lawful holder of a License to Carry on October 21, 1998 for the purpose of possessing rifles, shotguns and firearms lawfully owned by such person on such effective date. However, no firearm and no large capacity rifle or shotgun may be sold, leased, transferred or delivered to any person less than 21 years of age.
(i) All FID Cards lawfully possessed on October 21, 1998 shall be valid, unless revoked or suspended, until the expiration date specified in the new law, for the purpose of possessing large capacity rifles, shotguns or feeding devices therefore, or possessing any firearm or deeding device lawfully owned on October 21, 1998 that was purchased with a permit to purchase under section 131A. However, such card shall not be valid for the purpose of purchasing, leasing or otherwise receiving through transfer large capacity rifles or shotguns or large capacity feeding devices. Nothing prohibits such person from possessing, purchasing, leasing, or otherwise receiving through transfer non-large capacity rifles, shotguns or ammunition feeding devices thereof. They may also apply for an LTC.
(j) The Secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety is required to issue regulations to implement the provisions of this legislation and to ensure that notice be provided through the most effective means possible to each cardholder and licensee of the upcoming expiration dates of their cards and licenses and of the restrictions provided under the legislation. The Executive Director of the Criminal History Systems Board is required to develop a plan to provide licensing authorities with applications and renewal applications for FID Cards and Class A at no cost and within a reasonable time. The plan must be submitted to the legislature by March 15, 1999. Within 30 days of the effective date of this law, the Governor shall appoint members to the Gun Control Advisory Board.