A Synopsis of State Laws on Purchase, Possession and Carrying of Firearms in Massachusetts
NOTE: Caution: State firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law. To determine the applicability of these laws to specific situations which you may encounter, you are strongly urged to consult an attorney.
POSSESSION: Either a Firearm Identification card (FID) or a License to Carry (LTC) is required to own or possess a handgun, rifle, shotgun or ammunition. An investigation of the applicant by the local chief of police or his delegate is required before issuance of an FID. There is a $100 fee for the FID and LTC is valid for 6 years, unless revoked or suspended “for cause” at the will of the licensing authority. When you renew, prior to your birthday you will receive a receipt that will keep your old license in force until the state sends you your new license, how ever long that may take. Persons over 70 shall be exempt from all renewal license fees.
An applicant is entitled to an FID unless he has been convicted of a felony within the last five years, or has been confined or treated for drug addiction or habitual drunkenness within the last five years, or has been confined to any hospital or institution for mental illness unless he has an affidavit from a physician stating that he is not disabled in a manner which should prevent his possessing a handgun, rifle, or shotgun. All aliens and minors under the age of 15 are prohibited from obtaining an FID card; but a minor between the ages of 15 and 18 may obtain an FID card with the written permission of his parent or guardian.
The licensing authority may petition the court with a non statutory reason to deny the FID but the court would need to agree. Notice of approval or denial must be given to the applicant within 40 days. If denied, the applicant may appeal to the District Court for judicial review. (see link below)
Any person who inherits a rifle, shotgun or handgun is required to obtain an FID or license to carry LTC, within 180 days if he intends to retain possession of the firearm(s), See GS#36.
For Ma. Firearm Transaction List go to; https://mircs.chs.state.ma.us/fa10/action/home?app_context=home&app_action=presentTrans choose the option you need.
A new resident moving into the state who owns firearms has 180 days in which to obtain an FID or a LTC to make the possession legal in Massachusetts. A person may possess but not carry during this 180 day period. An alien may obtain an “alien permit to possess” from the state Commissioner of Public Safety which will allow him to possess a rifle or shotgun. These permit cards are valid for one year and are issued only to aliens with a U.S. Immigration card.
EXEMPTIONS from the FID and licensing requirements are provided for: 1. The temporary holding or firing of a handgun under the supervision of a person with a LTC, or the holding or firing of a rifle or shotgun under the supervision of a person with an FID or “where such holding or firing is for a lawful purpose”. 2. The use of a rifle or shotgun for hunting or target shooting by a minor under age of 15, provided he is under the immediate supervision of a person holding an FID or a LTC. 3. Possession by a chartered veterans organization and possession by their members when on ceremonial duties. 4. Possession by museums and institutional collections open to the public, provided such firearms are unloaded and secured. 5. Possession by federally- licensed manufacturers and dealers and their employees when necessary for manufacture, display, storage or testing.
PURCHASE: To purchase a rifle, shotgun, handgun or ammunition the buyer must have an FID or LTC or proof of exempt status (police or military) and be at least 18 years old. It is a crime (felony) to sell, give away, loan or otherwise transfer any firearm or ammunition to anyone who is not properly licensed or otherwise authorized to possess or receive such firearm or ammunition. See GS#36, E-FA-10 form.
A private individual is permitted to sell up to four firearms in a linear (365 day period) year, more if sold directly to a licensed gun dealer. He must be properly licensed to possess these firearms and the purchaser must be properly licensed to buy them. The seller must file a report of the sale with the Commissioner immediately, online via the E-FA-10 form. This report must be on the proper forms provided by the Commissioner and give all required details regarding the seller, purchaser and the firearm being transferred, including the caliber, make, and serial number along with the FID or LTC numbers of both buyer and seller. NOTE: This is form, E-F.A.-10 or “Firearms Sale/Rental/Lease Transaction Form” portal should be found online at the Ma. State Police website.
CARRY: A person may not carry a loaded rifle or shotgun on any public way. The LTC allows the holder to purchase, possess or carry an unlimited number of handguns. A license may be issued to an applicant who satisfies the requirements for obtaining a LTC, who appears to the chief of police to be “a suitable person to be so licensed” and who has “good reason to fear injury to his person or property”. In addition, the applicant must never have been convicted of a felony, must be 21 years of age, or 15, (with parents permission) for FID, and be a US citizen. A license also may be issued for “any lawful purpose” including the carrying of firearms for the reason of “target and hunting only”.
An applicant must be notified of a denial within 40 days of submitting an application for a LTC. In the event a license is denied, revoked, or no reply has been given within 40 days of submitting an application, the aggrieved may, within 45 days file a petition for judicial review in the District Court. See GS#13.
Change of Address: Any license holder who moves his residence to another jurisdiction within the state must, within 30 days, notify the chief of police who issued the license, the chief of police in the jurisdiction where he is moving, and the Commissioner of Public Safety. Failure to provide such change of address notification is unlawful and may void the license. NOTE: You can find the form “Change of Address Notification For License To Carry Firearms And Firearms Identification Card” at your local police department. Pick up four of them, one is for your file. See GS#14.
Transportation in a vehicle: A resident may transport a rifle or shotgun provided it is unloaded and he has at least an FID. A resident may transport a handgun only if he has a LTC. It is illegal to temporarily leave any firearm unattended in a vehicle. Note: See this link for Stored or Kept” and “Direct Control” Gun Sense #22, Ma. ‘Stored & Kept’ and ‘Direct Control’ definition.
NON-RESIDENTS: A non- resident may possess a rifle or shotgun in Ma. 1. While hunting and in possession of a valid hunting license. 2. While on a firing or shooting range. 3. While traveling in or through Ma. if the rifle or shotgun is unloaded and enclosed in a case. 4. While at a firearms show organized by a “regularly existing gun collector’s club or association”. 5. If he has a license or permit to possess any firearm in his home state. To transport or possess a handgun, a non-resident must obtain a temporary LTC good for one year, from the Commissioner of Public Safety, 200 Arlington St. Suite 2200, Chelsea Ma. 02150, Tel: 617-660-4600. A temporary license may be issued to a non-resident or alien or person not falling within the jurisdiction of a local licensing authority.
The colonel of state police may issue a temporary license to carry a handgun to a non-resident, alien, or resident who does not live within the jurisdiction of a local licensing authority. 1. A temporary license must clearly indicate it is a class A license. The fee for a temporary license is $100. 2. Temporary licenses are good for one year, and renewable at the discretion of the colonel of state police. Unlike regular class A license, temporary licenses may not be used to purchase firearms. 3. A non-resident with a license to carry a handgun issued by his home state* may carry a pistol or revolver in Ma. for the purpose of taking part in a competition or exhibition of handguns, or for hunting provided he has a valid hunting license issued by Ma. or the state of his destination. *( Provided that the home state has the same requirements as Ma. for obtaining a LTC ).
Antiques and Replicas: An antique firearm is defined as any handgun, rifle or shotgun manufactured in or before 1898, or any replica thereof which is not designed for firing fixed ammunition or which uses fixed ammunition no longer manufactured in the United States and no longer readily available commercially. An FID card is not required to possess antique and replica firearms in the home or place of business. A LTC is required when antique and replica handguns are being carried outside the home or place of business. An LTC or FID is also required to carry antique and replica rifles ad shotguns outside the home or place of business.
Machine Guns: A machine gun “is a weapon of any description, from which a number of shots or bullets may be rapidly or automatically discharged by one continuous activation of the trigger, and includes a sub-machine gun”. It is unlawful to possess a machine gun without a special license. Application is made to the local police chief who, in his discretion, may issue a license to any applicant “who is a suitable person to be so licensed”, and is a firearm instructor certified by the criminal justice training council for instructing police personnel or is a bona fide collector of firearms. A LTC is a prerequisite.
Miscellaneous Provisions: 1. Although persons in the military and other peace officers are exempt from the above requirements, this exemption is applicable only when they are performing their official duties or when duly authorized to possess weapons. It is not applicable for any private or sporting use of such rifles, shotguns or handguns. 2. Air guns and BB guns are regulated by the above provisions. 3. It is unlawful to possess, sell, or transfer any firearm whose shape does not resemble a handgun or short-barreled rifle or shotgun, or that is not detectable by x-ray or metal detector. 4. It is unlawful to remove, deface or alter in any manner the serial or identification number of a firearm, or knowingly to receive such a firearm. Possession of a firearm with an altered or defaced number creates a legal presumption that the possessor committed the offense. 5. Discharge of any firearm within 150 feet of a public way or 500 feet of a building in use is prohibited, except with the consent of the owner or legal occupant, in defense of life and property, or at licensed shooting galleries, target, test, trap or skeet ranges with the permission of the owner or legal occupant. 6. In the event of theft, loss or recovery of any firearm, the owner is required to notify the executive director of the Criminal History Systems Board, and the licensing authority in the city or town where the owner resides. 7. Any person in possession of any firearm is required to exhibit his FID, receipt for FID card fee, license to carry, LTC, or hunting license to a law enforcement officer upon demand. If the person fails to display the appropriate document, he may be required to surrender his firearm, although he may recover it if he produces the license within 30 days. 8. The governor shall appoint a 7 member gun control advisory board. Their duties include compiling and publishing a roster of large capacity rifles, shotguns, handguns, and feeding devices. 9. Any handgun or large capacity firearm sold without a safety device approved by the colonel of state police “shall be defective and the sale of such weapon shall constitute a breach of warranty … and an unfair or deceptive trade act or practice.” This creates a civil cause of action. 10. All firearms must be stored or kept secured in a locked container or equipped with a lock or other safety device. A firearm is not considered stored or kept if carried by or under the “direct control” of the owner or other lawfully authorized user. A violation of this provision is evidence of wanton or reckless conduct in any criminal or civil proceeding if a person under 18 gains access to a firearm. A violation of this provision is also criminally punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment up to 10 years. 11. In a domestic relations restraining order, (201-A) the court shall also order the defendant to surrender any firearm, ammunition, and cards and licenses therefor if it makes a determination that the defendant presents a likelihood of abuse to the plaintiff.
Addtional Provisions for Boston: In Boston under a vague law it is unlawful to possess, display, transfer, or receive: 1. Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder and/or a capacity exceeding six rounds. 2. A semiautomatic rifle with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds. 3. Any SKS, AK47, UZI, AR-15, Steyr AUG, FN-FAL, and FN-FNC rifle. 4. Any semiautomatic pistol which is a modification of a proscribed rifle or shotgun with a shorter barrel or no stock, and any magazine or belt which holds more than 10 rounds. Also:
An “assault weapons roster board” may add additional firearms to the list of so-called “assault weapons.” Such firearms must have been registered with the Boston Police Commissioner within 90 days of the effective date of the law (12/9/89), or they are unlawful. An owner, in Boston, of a firearm added to the roster of assault weapons must obtain a license to possess it within 90 days of its addition, or it becomes unlawful. The provision does not apply to possession by non-residents of Boston at a sporting or shooting club by persons who possess the requisite state license to carry. It also does not apply to persons taking part in competition or at a collectors’ exhibit or meeting or traveling to or from such event or while in transit through Boston for the purpose of hunting by licensed hunter, provided that in all cases the “assault weapon” is unloaded and packaged and the person has a Massachusetts FID card or has a license or permit to carry or possess firearms issued by another state.
Massachusetts has a mandatory sentence of one to two and 1/2 years imprisonment for anyone convicted of illegally possessing a firearm loaded or unloaded. It is legal to possess chemical ‘mace or pepperspray’ without an FID or LTC or class D license as long as you are 18 0r older. It is illegal to possess a ‘stun gun/tazer’, there is no license available.
Mark Shean, About Me