Recently enacted legislation has expanded the eligibility disqualifications for Massachusetts Firearms Identification Cards and it now allows licensing authorities to petition district courts to deny, suspend, or revoke firearms identification cards on the grounds of unsuitability. Prior to this legislation, licensing authorities were required to issue FID cards unless the applicant was statutorily prohibited. Under the new statute, police may now file a petition in the District Court and seek a judicial determination to deny or revoke an FID where the applicant is “unsuitable,” meaning that the FID applicant or cardholder has exhibited or engaged in behavior to suggest that he or she either is a risk to public safety or could potentially create such a risk.
The determination of unsuitability must be based on a preponderance of the evidence. Under this standard, reliable evidence must demonstrate that the FID applicant “has exhibited or engaged in behavior to suggest the applicant could potentially create a risk to public safety.” The licensing authority has the burden of proof in these FID denial cases. If a district court judge decides that the FID applicant is unsuitable, he or she is required to provide the applicant with written notification of the specific reasons for the unsuitability determination.
There are two types of unsuitability petitions. The first type is a petition to deny an application for or renewal of an FID. For these petitions, once the petition is filed with the court, the filing acts to stay the application or renewal process pending judicial determination. When this petition is filed, the law requires that the matter be heard and decided by a judge within 90 days of the filing date.
If the petition is allowed and the FID ultimately denied by the court, the judge must issue written findings regarding the respondent’s unsuitability within 90 days of the filing. The standard for any determination of unsuitability is by a preponderance of the evidence. If the matter is not heard and findings are not made within 90 days, by default the respondent’s FID issues.
The second type of unsuitability petition is to suspend or revoke an active FID. When the licensing authority files this type of petition, the respondent’s FID is automatically suspended or revoked upon filing. An initial prima facie judicial determination must then be made that the petition sufficiently alleges the respondent is unsuitable. This initial determination must be made within 15 days (not business days) of the petition filing date.
If the court finds the petition sufficient, then the petition must be heard and decided within 75 days of the initial determination. As is true with the first type of unsuitability petition, if the petition is allowed and the FID ultimately denied by the court, the judge must issue written findings regarding the applicant’s unsuitability, this time within 75 days of the initial determination. The standard for the determination of unsuitability is by a preponderance of the evidence. If the matter is not heard and findings are not made within 75 days of the initial determination, by default the respondent’s FID will be reinstated.
If you have been denied a Massachusetts Firearms Identification Card or if your FID has been suspended or revoked, I invite you to contact my office for a free consultation a review of your situation.