For Immediate Release - September 17, 2009

Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Files Brief Asking the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to Uphold the Constitutionality of Firearms Safety Laws in Massachusetts

BOSTON - Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office filed an amicus brief in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) in the case of Commonwealth v. Runyan, urging the Commonwealth's highest court to reject a constitutional challenge to the Commonwealth's safe firearm storage law. The law requires stored firearms be secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant safety device, except when "carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user." The law is intended to ensure that irresponsible persons do not gain access to firearms and to minimize the risk of accidental discharge.

This appeal provides the SJC with its first opportunity to address the impact of a May 2008 ruling by the United States Supreme Court in District of Columbia v. Heller on the Commonwealth's firearm laws. The Attorney General's brief, filed Tuesday, urges the SJC to interpret those laws in a way that will continue to protect the public from the unauthorized use of firearms but also recognize a gun owner's right to use a firearm for self-defense in the home.

The underlying case arises from a Lowell District Court judge's dismissal in October 2008 of an unsafe firearm storage charge that the Middlesex District Attorney filed against defendant Richard Runyan in April 2008. The trial judge held that the statute impermissibly interfered with Runyan's Second Amendment right to keep a weapon for self-defense in the home. The Attorney General's Brief argues that this decision was wrong because the Second Amendment does not restrict states' ability to protect public safety by regulating firearms, and the Massachusetts safe firearm storage law does not prevent the use of a firearm for self-defense in the home.

The Attorney General's brief was authored by Assistant Attorneys General James Arguin, Chief of Attorney General Coakley's Appeals Division, and Pamela Hunt, also of the Appeals Division. The brief was joined by District Attorneys, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

To view the Attorney General's Amicus brief click here.

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