Massachusetts laws

In general

  • MGL c.140, §§ 121-131P Sale of firearms. Includes:
    • § 121 Definitions of firearm types, including antique weapons
    • § 129C Non-residents carrying firearms: rifle or shotgun
    • § 131 Licenses to carry firearms; conditions and restrictions
    • § 131F Non-residents: temporary license to carry firearms or ammunition
    • § 131G Non-residents carrying firearms: pistol or revolver
    • § 131K Firearm safety devices
    • § 131L Storage of weapons
    • § 131P Firearms safety training
  • MGL c.269, § 10 Carrying dangerous weapons; possession of machine gun or sawed-off shotguns; possession of large capacity weapon or large capacity feeding device; punishment, certain knives and blades. Subsection (j) prohibits carrying a weapon on school or university grounds.
  • MGL c.269, § 10H Carrying loaded firearm while under influence of liquor, marijuana, narcotic drugs, depressants or stimulant substances; punishment
  • MGL c.276, § 58A(1) "The commonwealth may move, based on dangerousness, for an order of pretrial detention...[for a person] arrested and charged with a violation of paragraph (a), (c), or (m) of section 10 of chapter 269 [illegal weapons]."

Bump stocks and trigger cranks

Crossbows

Extreme risk protection orders (ERPO)

Knives

Pepper spray

Stun guns

Toy guns and BB guns

Massachusetts regulations

321 CMR 3.01(3) Hunting with bows and arrows

501 CMR 7 Approved weapon rosters

501 CMR 13 Standards for identification cards for retired law enforcement officers

515 CMR 3 Firearms course and instructor certifications and firearms surrender programs

515 CMR 6 Law enforcement officers safety act qualification standards and instructor certification

803 CMR 10 Gun transaction recording

940 CMR 16 Handgun sales

Federal laws and regulations

18 USC §§ 921-931 Firearms

  • 18 USC § 922(g)(3) prohibits any person who is an "unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802))" from shipping, transporting, receiving or having firearms or ammunition.

Public Law No: 117-159: Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, 117th Congress (2021-2022)
Includes extending background checks for individuals under 21, closure of the "boyfriend loophole", funding for state red flag laws, and clarification on Federal Firearm Identification license requirements.

27 CFR 447-479 Firearms and ammunition

  • 27 CFR 478 "Ghost guns" are subject to the same regulations as commercially manufactured firearms. See also DOJ fact sheet.

Other states' laws

State laws and published ordinances-firearms, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. 
"This publication is designed to help Federal firearms licensees (FFL) comply with Federal and State firearms laws; specifically, with the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA)."

Forms

ATF form 4473, Firearms transaction record (form 4473)
Question 11.e says: Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance? Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.

Firearms servicesMass. Firearms Records Bureau.
Includes information about firearms licenses, sales, and transfers, appealing a firearms license denial, approved firearms rosters, and firearms laws for the state.

Sample complaint for judicial review of revocation of license18 Am. Jur. Pl.& Pr. Forms Municipal Corporations, Counties, Etc. § 46. Available through our Document Delivery Service.

Selected case law

Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 US 411, 136 S. Ct. 1027(2016).
The US Supreme Court held that the reasoning of the SJC in Comm. v. Caetano, 470 Mass. 774 (2015), in ruling that the Second Amendment didn’t apply to stun guns was incorrect. The US Supreme Court sent the case back to Massachusetts. The case didn’t rule the Massachusetts law, MGL c. 140, § 131J, unconstitutional. 

Chardin v. Boston Police Commissioner, 465 Mass. 314 (2013). 
Massachusetts firearms licensing statute "does not infringe on a right protected by the Second Amendment" and involves a record of a felony as a delinquent child.

Chief of Police of Taunton v. Caras, 95 Mass. App. Ct. 182 (2019)
Discusses the standard of review when a court is asked to review a decision by the chief of police revoking a firearms license.

Comm. v. Buttimer, 482 Mass. 754 (2019)
A gun "need not be operational to prove either assault by means of a dangerous weapon or armed assault with intent to murder.  It is enough for assault by means of a dangerous weapon that the weapon appear dangerous to the victim of the assault; the weapon does not actually have to be operational."

Comm. v. Cassidy, 479 Mass. 527 (2018)
Large capacity. "[T]o sustain a conviction under G. L. c. 269, § 10 (m), the Commonwealth must prove that a defendant either knew the firearm or feeding device met the legal definition of "large capacity" or knew it was capable of holding more than ten rounds of ammunition." Provides a model jury instruction in the appendix.

Comm. v. Fettes, 64 Mass. App. Ct. 917 (2005)
A dog can be a dangerous weapon. "A dangerous weapon is 'any instrument or instrumentality so constructed or so used as to be likely to produce death or great bodily harm.' Commonwealth v. Farrell, 322 Mass. 606, 614-615 (1948). See also Anderson, Wharton's Criminal Law and Procedure, § 361. There can be little doubt that a dog . . . used for the purpose of intimidation or attack falls within this definition." 

Comm. v. Garcia, 82 Mass. App. Ct. 239 (2012)
Provides detailed definitions of "dirk knife" and "dagger."

Comm. vs. Garrett, 473 Mass. 257 (2015)   
“This court concluded that a BB gun is not a firearm for purposes of the armed robbery statute, G. L. c. 265, § 17”

Comm. v. McGowan, 464 Mass. 232 (2013)
Court held that "because [the gun storage law, G.L. c.140,] § 131L (a) is consistent with the right to bear arms in self-defense in one's home and is designed to prevent those who are not licensed to possess or carry firearms from gaining access to firearms, it falls outside the scope of the Second Amendment."

Comm. v. Rodriguez, 482 Mass. 366 (2019)
Lengthy discussion of mandatory minimum sentences in GL c.269, § 10. "This court concluded that a criminal defendant who has been convicted of possession of a large capacity feeding device, in violation of G. L. c. 269, § 10 (m), lawfully may be sentenced to State prison for not less than one year nor more than two and one-half years."

Comm. v. Runyan, 456 Mass. 230 (2010)
Trigger locks or locked containers can be required. The Second Amendment isn't incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of substantive due process and therefore doesn't apply to the States. Further, the General Laws c. 140, § 131L (a) can be distinguished from the law ruled unconstitutional in Heller, because "an individual with a valid firearms identification card issued under G. L. c. 140, § 129C, is not obliged to secure or render inoperable a firearm while the individual carries it or while it remains otherwise under the individual's control...; the statute therefore does not make it impossible for those persons licensed to possess firearms to rely on them for lawful self-defense."

Comm v. Stephens, 67 Mass. App. Ct. 906 (2006)
A starter pistol that doesn’t have a barrel plug or obstruction in the cylinder that would stop a projectile from passing through the barrel is a firearm.

Comm. v. Veronneau, 90 Mass. App. Ct. 477 (2016)
"The judge's finding that the defendant was guilty of carrying a loaded firearm while under the influence of intoxicating liquor was not inconsistent with the judge's finding that the defendant was not guilty of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor...A condition of probation requiring a criminal defendant to surrender his firearms during the term of his probation did not violate the defendant's constitutional right to bear arms."

District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 US 570 (2008)
"The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home."

Fletcher v. Haas, 851 F. Supp. 2d. 287 (2012)
"[T]he Massachusetts firearms regulatory regime as applied to [lawful permanent resident aliens], contravenes the Second Amendment." Judgment entered "enjoining denial of firearm licenses and permits to [plaintiffs] solely on the basis of their permanent resident alien status."

Goudreau v. Nikas, 98 Mass. App. Ct. 266 (2020)
G.L. c.140 § 131L applies to firearm dealers and guns kept in a commercial setting. Guns in a store must still be secured as the law requires.

McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 US 742 (2010)
In clearly stating that "the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment makes the Second Amendment right binding on the States," the court also reiterated its statement from Heller that "the right to keep and bear arms is not 'a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.'”

New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass'n, Inc. v. Bruen, __ U.S. __ (June 23, 2022)
Supreme Court held that New York's “proper cause” requirement for issuing a license to carry a firearm violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments.

Phipps v. Boston Police Commissioner, 94 Mass. App. Ct. 725 (2019)
"A decision...to revoke the plaintiff's license to carry a firearm was arbitrary and capricious."  "Discussion of the standard of review of the decision to revoke a license to carry a firearm, of the standard to be used by a firearm licensing authority when determining whether to issue a firearm license with restrictions, and of the statutory scheme for firearm licensure."

Ramirez v. Commonwealth, 479 Mass. 331 (2018)
"This court concluded that stun guns are "arms" within the protection of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and that...barring all civilians from possessing or carrying stun guns, even in their home, was inconsistent with the Second Amendment and therefore unconstitutional."

Web sources

Appeal a firearms license denial
If your firearms license was denied, you can appeal the denial at the District Court or in some cases, you can petition the Firearm Licensing Review Board.

Apply for a firearms license in Massachusetts, Executive Office of Public Safety and Security
A firearms license is required to possess (FID) or carry (LTC) firearms in Massachusetts. Form is submitted to your local police department.

Approved weapons rosters, Executive Office of Public Safety.
Links to both the Approved firearms roster and the Large capacity firearms roster.

Extreme risk guide, Dept. of Mental Health, 2018.
"This guide provides information on resources that may be helpful to individuals, who are seeking an extreme risk protective order, or who had an extreme risk protective order issued against them."

Federal firearms regulations reference guide, Bureau of Alcohol  Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, 2014.
“[C]ontains information that will help you comply with Federal laws and regulations governing the manufacture, importation and distribution of firearms and ammunition.”

Guide to the interstate transportation of firearms, NRA Institute for Legislative Action.
"Many states and localities have laws governing the transportation of firearms. Travelers must be aware of these laws and comply with legal requirements in each jurisdiction. There is no uniform state transportation procedure for firearms." Provides links to state and federal laws. 

Gun ownership in Massachusetts, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. 
Massachusetts residents 15 years and older who want to possess, carry, and transport firearms, ammunition, and feeding devices are required to have a firearms license. Firearms licenses are issued by municipal police departments. 

Joint Advisory, MA AGO and EOPSS, July 2022.
A joint advisory from the Massachusetts Attorney General and Executive Office of Public Safety and Security regarding the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen and the affect on Massachusetts’s firearm licensing laws.

Law bars most immigrants from carrying self-defense spray, CommonWealth Magazine, February 2019.
"The penalty is imprisonment for up to two years and a fine of not more than $1,000. The only immigrants exempted from the penalty are green card holders and those who have been victims of domestic violence."

Open letter to all Federal firearms licensees, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, September 21, 2011.
"any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her State has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by Federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition."

Public safety notice: 3D-printed guns, Mass. Attorney General, August 9, 2018.
"The creation, transfer, or possession of a weapon made with a 3D printer can subject an individual to serious criminal or civil liability under Massachusetts law."

Suitability challenged: the judicial creation of suitability standards for firearms licensing, Mass. Bar Association, Lawyers Journal, June 2014. 
Discusses the “suitable person” standard for getting a firearms license under MGL c.140, § 131(d), (f).

Transporting firearms and ammunition, TSA.
Explains requirements for transporting firearms on planes.

Print sources

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Last updated: September 23, 2022
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