Supreme Judicial Court (March 10, 2010)
The Second Amendment does not restrict the state's right to regulate the possession of firearms. The obligation to secure firearms in G.L. c. 140, § 131L (a) is constitutional, and it allows for a licensed gun owner to use the firearm for lawful self-defense.
The defendant's son shot a BB rifle at his neighbor's house. The police arrived and the defendant's son showed the police the BB rifle and a semiautomatic hunting rifle without a trigger lock that was stored under the defendant's bed in a soft, unlocked carrying case. The defendant was charged with violating G.L. c. 140, § 131L (a) for failing to store a rifle in a locked container or with a trigger lock. The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that mandating the safe storage of firearms impermissibly infringed on his right to bear arms for self-defense under the Second Amendment to the Constitution, as articulated in District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S. Ct. 2783 (2008) (Heller). The District Court Judge dismissed the count, stating that the provisions of G.L. c. 140, § 131L are indistinguishable from those struck down in Heller. The SJC granted the Commonwealth's application for direct review, reversed the decision and vacated the dismissal of the count.
The SJC determined that the Second Amendment does not restrict the right of the Massachusetts Legislature to regulate the possession of firearms and ammunition. Moreover, the Court found that the provisions of G.L. c. 140, § 131L (a) are distinguishable from those held unconstitutional in Heller. In Heller, a registered gun owner was prohibited in all circumstances from carrying or keeping a loaded firearm in the home. In contrast, G.L. c. 140, § 131L (a) does not require an individual with a valid firearms identification card to secure or render inoperable a firearm while the individual carries it or otherwise keeps it under his control. The legal requirement to secure the firearm arises only when it is stored or outside the owner's immediate control, thereby allowing a licensed person to use it for self-defense.