Gun laws in Massachusetts
|Subject/Law||Long Guns||Handguns||Relevant Statutes||Notes|
|Permit to purchase required?||Yes||Yes||Firearm Identification (FID) or license to carry required.|
|Firearm registration?||No*||No*||Registration is not specifically required by law, however transfers of firearm ownership are required to be recorded with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) by the seller if in state or by the buyer if out of state. The Massachusetts EOPSS provides the option to register a firearm as well, although other than obtaining a firearm from out of state (a transfer of ownership), this is not required by law.|
|Owner license required?||Yes||Yes||Firearm Identification (FID) or license to carry required.|
|Carry permits issued?||No||Yes||MA Ch. 140 Sec. 131||Massachusetts is a "may issue" state for concealed carry; the issuing authority is the local police chief for most jurisdictions. There are several different types of concealed carry licenses. CCW issuance varies within the state. Counties closer to large cities (like Boston) are de facto no-issue, whereas more rural (and some suburban) counties have shall/reasonable issuance policies . Restrictions can be put on any type of permit however, such as only while target shooting and hunting. Permits are valid state wide as long as you are carrying in the manner you are allowed to.|
|Open carry permitted?||No||No||*Open carry is legal in some areas with a concealed carry license but generally is discouraged by law enforcement.|
|State preemption of local restrictions?||No||No||There is limited preemption for some laws.|
|"Assault weapon" law?||Yes||Yes||A two point "banned features" system is what defines an "assault weapon". These "assault weapons" are prohibited unless lawfully owned on or prior to September 13, 1994. Firearms that do not have two or more "banned features" are legal to purchase with an LTC-A, LTC-B or in some cases a standard FID so long as magazine restrictions are followed to what your license allows.|
|Magazine Capacity Restriction?||Yes||Yes||Illegal to possess magazines of over 10 rounds capacity unless manufactured prior to 09/13/1994, and one has a LTC-A . Does not apply to tubular magazines.|
|NFA weapons restricted?||Yes||Yes||The possession of automatic firearms is only allowed with a permit, which is rarely granted . Silencers are restricted only for law enforcement. Some destructive devices are banned at the state level, while others are banned at a local level. DD's can be completely illegal or legal depending on what county you live in. SBR's, SBS's, and AOW's are allowed with proper approval from the ATF, provided they comply with the current assault weapon law and local restrictions.|
Massachusetts Law requires firearm owners to be licensed through their local Police Department or the Massachusetts State Police if no local licensing authority is available. A license is required by state law for buying firearms and ammunition. An applicant must have passed a State approved firearm safety course before applying for a license.
All applications, interviews, fees, and fingerprinting are done at the local Police Department then sent electronically to the Massachusetts Criminal History Board for the mandatory background checks and processing. All approved applicants will receive their license from the issuing Police Department. All licensing information is stored by the Criminal History Board. Non residents who are planning on carrying in the state must apply for a temporary license to carry (LTC) through the State Police before their travel.
Types of firearm licenses
- FID (Firearms Identification Card): Permits the purchase of rifles and shotguns with a capacity of no more than 10 rounds and their carrying for hunting and sporting purposes. FIDs are "Shall issue", except if the applicant fails a background check.
- Does not allow the holder to carry a firearm concealed, when transporting firearms it must be locked and inaccessible as well as separate from ammunition. The LTC-B is a may issue License by a local police authority or a state police Colonel.
- LTC-A: This license allows purchase any firearm legal in the state of Mass, are authorized to own "large capacity" firearms holding greater than 10 rounds assuming the magazine is "pre-ban" (Manufactured prior to September 13, 1994) post ban high-capacity magazines are not legal in MA with the exception of Law Enforcement. An LTC-A is the only permit that allows concealed carry in MA assuming it has not had any restrictions placed on it by the Chief of Police or issuing authority.
- "Machine gun" license: Allows the holder to purchase and possess any kind of assault rifle. Are de-facto no-issue by police authorities, unless a trainer of law enforcement personnel or a bona fide collector of antiques. Must comply with Federal law under NFA provisions.
Additionally, LTC-A permits may have the following restrictions, however, none of these restrictions have been clearly defined by state law, and are subject to each Chief of Police's definition of such (ie : these definitions are NOT legally binding) :
- Employment: restricts possession to business owner engaged in business activities or to an employee while engaged in work related activities, and maintaining proficiency, where the employer requires carry of a firearm (i.e. armored car, security guard, etc.). Includes travel to and from activity location.
- Target and hunting: (Most Common restriction)– restricts possession to the purpose of lawful recreational shooting or competition; for use in the lawful pursuit of game animals and birds; for personal protection in the home; and for the purpose of collecting (other than machine guns). Includes travel to and from activity location
- Sporting: restricts possession to the purpose of lawful recreational shooting or competition; for use in the lawful pursuit of game animals and birds; for personal protection in the home; for the purpose of collecting (other than machine guns); and for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, camping, cross country skiing, or similar activities. Includes travel to and from activity location.
- Other: (Very Rare) Issuing Chief has special reason or direction for the restriction of the permit. Can vary greatly.
Assault weapons are defined (with no exceptions, except pre 1994 models) as: (i) Avtomat Kalashnikov (AK) (all models), Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil, Beretta Ar70 (SC-70), Colt AR-15, Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR and FNC, SWD M-10, M-11, M-11/9 and M-12, Steyr AUG, INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9, TEC-22, revolving cylinder shotguns, Street Sweeper, and the Striker 12.
Assault weapons are also defined as:
- A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any two of the following:
- A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
- A folding or telescoping stock.
- A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
- A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor;
- A bayonet lug
- A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any two of the following:
- A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor
- A second handgrip.
- A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.
- The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.
- A semiautomatic shotgun that has two of the following:
- A folding or telescoping stock.
- A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon,
- The ability to accept a detachable magazine.
- Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.
Machine gun license
A license to possess or carry a machine gun may be issued only to a firearm instructor certified by the Criminal Justice Training Council for the sole purpose of firearm instruction to police personnel, or to a bona fide collector of firearms upon application or renewal of such license.
A "bona fide collector of firearms," for the purpose of issuance of a machine gun license, shall be defined as an individual who acquires firearms for such lawful purposes as historical significance, display, research, lecturing, demonstration, test firing, investment or other like purpose.
For the purpose of issuance of a machine gun license, the acquisition of firearms for sporting use or for use as an offensive or defensive weapon shall not qualify an applicant as a bona fide collector of firearms.
All private sales are required to be registered through an FA-10 form with the Criminal History Board, Firearm Records division. The state has an assault weapons ban similar to the expired Federal ban. Massachusetts is a "may issue", as such the LTC-A is issued in a discretionary manner.
Travelers and firearms
Unless carried or under the control of the owner, state law requires all firearms to be stored in a locked container, or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device (see trigger lock), properly engaged so as to render such weapon inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user. If in a vehicle, firearm must be unloaded and contained within the locked trunk of such vehicle or in a locked case or other secure container, unless the licensee has a Class A license, in which case the firearm must be under the licensee's direct control. Any firearms that are found to be unsecured may be confiscated by law enforcement officers and license may be revoked. In the event a license is revoked for any reason, law enforcement will confiscate all weapons and store them for 1 year before destroying them unless the revoked licensee transfers ownership to a properly licensed party who then claims the firearms. Also, gun license holders may encounter licensing issues when moving from one township to another. While one city or township police chief may have issued a license, the chief of police in the city or township where the license holder may move does not have to authorize it, and may require that guns be surrendered. If a gun license is not authorized, and the police determine that the resident also holds a license in a different state, they may contact law enforcement in that state and inform them of the action, which could lead to the loss of the out-of-state license as well.
Aliens who reside in Massachusetts can apply for a "permit to possess non large capacity rifles and shotguns pursuant M.G.L. 140 s. 131H" directly with the Massachusetts Firearms Record Bureau. The applicants must receive firearms education at the FID or LTC-level and pass a 20-fingerprint FBI background check and interview. This permit is a "may issue" document similar to the FID but expiring December 31 of each year. The procedure requires about 16 weeks from application to delivery of the permit. There is no 90-day grace period for the renewal of alien permits. Both nonresident (i.e. visa-holders) and permanent resident (i.e. green-card holders) aliens are lumped together by Massachusetts law. The alien permit allows the possession of non-high capacity (i.e. less than 10 rounds) shotguns, rifles and ammunition. This includes .22 caliber rifles with tubular magazines holding more than 10 rounds, but it excludes high capacity rifles, assault rifles and handguns. FID and LTC are generally not issued to aliens even though Massachusetts law grants some latitude to the Colonel of Massachusetts State Police, who may be petitioned directly. A recent lawsuit, Fletcher v. Haas, has expanded Massachusetts aliens' gun rights by allowing possession and purchase of handguns for permanent resident aliens (green card holders). Alien permits are still in existence and required for all non-permanent resident aliens in Massachusetts.
As of April 30, 2012, all lawful permanent resident aliens (green card holders) are eligible to apply for a Massachusetts resident license to carry ("LTC") or firearms identification card ("FID").
- "State Gun Laws: Massachusetts", National Rifle Association – Institute for Legislative Action. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
- "Massachusetts State Law Summary", Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Retrieved December 31, 2012.
- Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. "Massachusetts Gun Licensing Requirements". Mass.gov. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- David T. Hardy. "The Firearm Owner's Protection Act: A Historical and Legal Perspective". guncite.com. Retrieved November 23, 2011.
- Letter from Francis X. Belloti, Attorney General, to Charles V. Barry, Secretary, Executive Office of Public Safety (Oct. 31, 1986) (copy in possession of Cumberland Law Review).
- Commonwealth Second Amendment. "Fletcher v. Haas (MA)". http://comm2a.org. Retrieved January 19, 2012.