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Massachusetts law about guns and other weapons

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on weapons law.

Massachusetts laws

St.2014, c.284 An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. Provisions include establishing new penalties for some gun crimes, providing for real-time background checks for private gun sales, and allowing police chiefs the right to go to court to ask to deny firearms identification cards for rifles or shotguns to those they believe are unsuitable.

MGL c.140, s.121-131P, Sale of Firearms. Includes:

MGL c.269, s.10. Carrying dangerous weapons; possession of machine gun or sawed-off shotguns; possession of large capacity weapon or large capacity feeding device; punishment. Subsection (j) prohibits carrying a weapon on the grounds of a school or university.

MGL c.269, s.10H Carrying loaded firearm while under influence of liquor, marijuana, narcotic drugs, depressants or stimulant substances; punishment

MGL c. 269, s.12B Air rifles; possession by minors; shooting (including BB guns)

MGL c.276, s.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]."

Massachusetts regulations

501 CMR 7 Approved Weapon Rosters

501 CMR 13 Standards for Identification Cards for Retired Law Enforcement Officers

515 CMR 3 Firearms Safety Instructors Certification; Basic Firearms Safety Course; and Firearms Surrender Program

515 CMR 6 Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act Training and Qualification Standards and Instructor Certification

803 CMR 10 Gun Transaction Recording

940 CMR 16 Handgun Sales

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)."


Firearms Forms and Applications, Executive Office of Public Safety. Forms necessary for permits, transfers and more.

Sample complaint for judicial review, 18 Am. Jur. Pl.& Pr. Forms Municipal Corporations, Counties, Etc. § 46. Available through our Document Delivery Service.

Selected case law

Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 US __ (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 did not apply to stun guns was incorrect. The US Supreme Court thus remanded the case back to Massachusetts. The case stopped short of ruling the Massachusetts law, MGL c. 140, s.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."

Commonwealth 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." Commonwealth v. Tarrant, 2 Mass. App. Ct. 483, 486 (1974)."

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

Commonwealth 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”

Commonwealth v. McGowan, 464 Mass. 232 (2013)
Court held that "because [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."

Commonwealth v. Runyan, 456 Mass. 230 (2010)
Trigger locks or locked containers can be required. The Second Amendment is not incorporated under the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of substantive due process and therefore does not 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."

Commonwealth 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, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (June 26, 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."

McDonald v. City of Chicago, 561 US 3025, 130 S.Ct. 3020 (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.'”

Web sources

Approved Weapons Rosters, Executive Office of Public Safety
Links to both the Approved Firearms Roster and the Large Capacity Firearms Roster.

Are You a Suitable Gun Owner? Police Chiefs Decide, Metrowest News, Jan. 16, 2011
Explains criteria for getting a gun permit in Massachusetts.

Fact Sheet: New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Our Communities Safer, President Obama, January 5, 2016.

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.”

Firearms and Ammunition: Traveling with Special Items, TSA.
Details requirements for airline transportation of firearms.

Firearms Possession Information, Executive Office of Public Safety
Includes information for residents and nonresidents.

Guide to the Interstate Transportation of Firearms, NRA Institute for Legislative Action

MA Firearms Frequently Asked Questions, Executive Office of Public Safety
Includes question on licensing, storage, locks, transporting and more.

Massachusetts Crossbow Laws Still Intact, South Coast Today, June 9, 2013
Explains the state's extremely limited crossbow access law (MGL c.131, s.69) with link to the permit application form.

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

The Traveler's Gun and Knife Law Book: the essential resource for travelers, hunters and concealed-carry permit holders: covering all fifty states and the District of Columbia , Spartan Press, 2012.

Complex Issues in Trying Drug and Gun Cases in Federal and State Court, Flaschner Judicial Institute, 2011

Criminal Law Police Manual, Law Enforcement Dimensions, 2016

Firearms in self defense: the Castle Doctrine, stand your ground and other considerations, NBA, 2015.

Firearms Law Deskbook, Thomson West, annual

Guns, Drugs and Money, MCLE, 2017

Handbook of Civil Procedure in the District Court, 4th ed., Lawyers Weekly, 2009 with sup. Chapter 23, Firearms Appeals.

Law Enforcement Guide to Firearms Law, Glidden Training and Consulting, 2016

Massachusetts firearm user’s manual 2017: a comprehensive guide to the use, possession and storage of firearms, rifles, shotguns, ammunition and related laws. William M. Cloran.

Practice in the Firearms Sessions, MCLE, 2017.

A Quick Reference to the Elements of Crimes: A Resource for Clerk-Magistrates and Assistant Clerk-Magistrates, Judicial Institute, 2006

The Traveler's Gun and Knife Law Book: the essential resource for travelers, hunters and concealed-carry permit holders: covering all fifty states and the District of Columbia, Spartan Press, 2012.

Last update: November 5, 2017


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