The attorney general’s office and the Baker administration’s public safety arm have spelled out for licensing authorities and law enforcement agencies how the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down New York’s concealed-carry gun licensing law applies to Massachusetts law.
The New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen case revolved around New York’s requirement that applicants demonstrate “proper cause” to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon, which the high court said was unconstitutional. Massachusetts was not part of the case, but the Supreme Court singled out a “good reason” provision of a Massachusetts gun law as an analogue to the unconstitutional New York requirement.
The guidance from Attorney General Maura Healey and Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy highlights that “it remains unlawful to carry a firearm in Massachusetts without a license” and that two criteria for a license to carry a firearm other than the “good reason” provision remain in full effect.
“Authorities should no longer deny, or impose restrictions on, a license to carry because the applicant lacks a sufficiently good reason to carry a firearm. An applicant who is neither a ‘prohibited person’ or ‘unsuitable’ must be issued an unrestricted license to carry,” the offices wrote in an executive summary of the guidance. “Licensing authorities may continue to inquire about the reasons why the applicant wants a license, but may only use that information to assess the prohibited person and suitability requirements of the statute. They may not use that information to deny or restrict a license for lack of a sufficiently good reason to carry a firearm.”
The guidance said that the Supreme Court’s ruling had no effect on the process Massachusetts uses for the issuance of firearms identification cards (FIDs), only on the “good reason” provision related to the award of licenses to carry.
An FID is required “to purchase, possess, or transport a rifle or shotgun that is not a large-capacity gun; or to purchase or possess ammunition or component parts of ammunition,” according to the Gun Owners Action League. A license to carry, the organization said, is required “in order to purchase, possess or transport a handgun, large capacity rifle, or large-capacity shotgun.” There are two classes of licenses to carry, one of which is required to carry a firearm in a concealed manner.
“The Commonwealth leads the nation with strong and effective gun laws that keep our communities safe and prevent unsuitable individuals from accessing firearms,” Reidy said. “In close collaboration with the Attorney General’s Office, EOPSS offers this clarifying information in support of state and local law enforcement and our shared commitment to ensuring the protection of our citizens from the threat of gun violence.”
When the Supreme Court’s decision was announced last week, state lawmakers said they would take some time to digest the legal ruling but signaled an interest to take legislative action to shore up the Bay State’s gun laws.
“We’ll be ready to tighten up the nets to the extent that they’re loosened by today’s decision,” Rep. Mike Day, who chairs the Judiciary Committee for the House, said last week when the Supreme Court handed down its decision.