Obtaining a License to Carry Firearms (LTC)

A person over the age of 21 may apply for a license to possess, carry, transport firearms, ammunition and feeding devices under Massachusetts laws regarding the License to Carry. When you are trying to obtain a license to carry a firearm in Massachusetts, you should be aware that there are two different classes: Class A and B licenses.

A Class A LTC allows the license holder to purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry: 1) Firearms, including large capacity firearms(semi-automatic handgun or rifle capable of firing more than ten rounds, or a shotgun capable of accepting more than five shotgun shells), ammunition and feeding devices for the ammunition, for any lawful purpose and 2) Rifles and shotguns—including large capacity weapons, ammunition and feed devices for the ammunition. Both forms of firearms can be subject to restrictions relative to the possession, use or carrying of firearms as the licensing authority deems proper. If someone violates one of the imposed restrictions, they can be fined between $1,000-$10,000. Class A licenses are also issued to individuals that own and operate a shooting range or gallery where large capacity weapons will be used.

A Class B license allows the person to purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry non-large capacity firearms and feeding devices for ammunition for the firearm. Class B licenses do not allow a person to carry a large capacity firearm (unless they are in a location that holds a valid Class A license) or carry any loaded firearm in a concealed manner in public. A violation of any Class B restrictions will also result in a fine between $1,000-$10,000.

Both Class A and B licenses allow a person to own, possess, purchase or transfer any non-large capacity rifles and shotguns, and also to purchase or possess chemical mace, pepper spray or any other propelled liquid, gas or powder which is designed to temporarily incapacitate.

In order to obtain a Class A or B license, an applicant must reside or have a place of business within the jurisdiction of the licensing authority and submit the application to the licensing authority or to the colonel of the state police. The license will be granted if the applicant is a suitable person and the person has either a good reason to fear injury to his person or property or for any other reason, including the carrying of firearms for use in sport or target practice only. An applicant must complete a Firearms Safety Course or a Basic Hunter Education course in order to fulfill the training requirement for Massachusetts. The license is valid for 6 years and costs $100.00.

A person’s application will be denied if he or she is an alien, under 21 years of age, or the LTC applicant has any statutory disqualifiers such active warrants, a criminal record containing disqualifying offenses, a record showing confinement or treatment for mental illness drug addiction, or drunkenness.

Seven days after receiving the LTC application, the Chief of Police or his designee is required to conduct a fingerprint check with the Mass. State Police. Within 30 days thereafter, the MSP is required to advice the local police of anything on the applicant’s criminal record which would disqualify the applicant or give the licensing officer a reason to believe that the LTC application should be denied.

The law states that the Chief of Police or licensing official authority is supposed to render a decision on a firearms license application within 40 days from the filing date. If a license is denied, the licensing authority is supposed to provide a written denial notice.

Expired Massachusetts Firearms Licenses (FID & LTC)

In Massachusetts, Licenses to Carry Firearms (LTCs) and Firearms Identification Cards (FIDs) are valid for no more than 6 years from the date of issue. They generally expire on the anniversary of the applicant’s date of birth. Many years ago, FID cards were issued with no expiration dates and the renewal date was listed as “indefinite.” However, those FID cards expired by operation of law when Chapter 180 of the Acts of 1988 was enacted.

There is a ninety (90) day grace period for Licenses to Carry Firearms (LTCs) and FID cards. This means that a LTC or FID is valid for a period of 90 days after the stated expiration date. For members returning from active military duty, FID cards are valid for 90 days after the military member’s release from active duty.

It is not a crime to carry a rifle, shotgun, or firearm on an expired license, even if the license is expired beyond the 90 day grace period, so long as the holder is not disqualified from renewal of the license. It is a civil infraction and not a violation of G.L. c. 269 § 10. Thus, there is no right of arrest. It is only a violation of G.L. c. 269 § 10 and, therefore, “arrestable” only if:

the license was revoked or suspended, or a revocation or suspension is pending, due to something other than a failure to notify of a change of address;

the renewal of the firearms license (LTC or FID) has been denied;

In all cases of a suspended, revoked, or expired firearms license (LTC or FID), police are required to confiscate the weapons and the firearms license, which must be promptly forwarded to the licensing authority which issued the license. Confiscated firearms, rifles and shotguns must returned to their owner upon license renewal.

Carrying on an expired LTC or FID is a civil infraction punished by a civil fine of $500 – $5000. G.L. c. 269 § 10 is not violated unless the license was suspended, revoked, or denied for something other than failure to report a change of address. Thus, there is usually no right of arrest in these situations.

Restraining Orders & Firearms Licensing in Massachusetts

If a G.L. c. 209A abuse prevention order has been issued against you, or your are the subject of a similar order issued by another jurisdiction, you are statutorily disqualified from holding or being issued a Firearms Identification Card (FID) or License to Carry Firearms (LTC) in Massachusetts.

If you have a Firearms Identification Card, once the G.L. c. 209A restraining order is lifted, you are entitled to have your FID card reinstated and your rifles and shotguns returned to you. This is because a Licensing Authority cannot deny you a FID card based on “suitability.”

A restraining order issued by the Probate & Family Court pursuant to G.L. c. 208 will not result in the suspension of your FID and such an order will not prevent you from being issued one. However, when it comes to a License to Carry Firearms (LTC), a Licensing Authority could deny your application or revoke your LTC based on suitability, because you were issued a G.L. c. 208 order.

Once you surrender your firearms, rifles, and shotguns to the police pursuant to an abuse prevention order, they can only released to a firearms licensed dealer, (FFL holder)  and directly to another private  individual who has a Firearms Identification Card (FID) or License to Carry Firearms (LTC).  G.L. c. 209A Section 3B requires that firearms be transferred from the police to either a FFL holder or a bonded warehouse. Private transfers are prohibited.

When an abuse prevention order is vacated or expires, your FID card must be reinstated and your LTC can be reinstated, depending what the Chief of Police or licensing authority decides. If facts and circumstances set forth in the affidavit relied upon to get the abuse prevention order raise suitability concerns, the police may refuse to reinstate your License to Carry Firearms due to an alleged lack of suitability. If this happens, you can file a Petition for Judicial Review in the District Court.

Of course, independent of any restraining order, a domestic abuse conviction will result in the suspension of your LTC on statutory grounds.

Firearms, rifles, and shotguns must be surrendered to police and the license or FID suspended whether the restraining order is temporary, permanent, or an emergency restraining order. These orders are issued when the applicant can demonstrate to a judge’s satisfaction that there is a substantial likelihood of immediate danger of abuse.

Not every firearm in the home must be surrendered when the police serve a restraining order. Only those weapons over which the defendant has possession or control must be surrendered. If there are multiple licensed individuals residing in the home, other gun owners not named as defendants in the restraining order can be allowed to retain their weapons, so long as the defendant does not have access to them.

In addition to the Massachusetts laws which prevent those with restraining orders from possessing firearms, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 further prevents the possession of firearms by those with restraining or abuse prevention orders.

Firearms Identification Cards in Massachusetts

Unlike licenses to Carry Firearms, the issuance of which is discretionary, Firearms Identification Cards shall be issued to those applicants who are not statutorily disqualified. This means that a Massachusetts licensing office cannot refuse to grant you a Firearms Identification (FID) Card based on an alleged lack of suitability. The issuance of Firearms Identification Cards in Massachusetts is governed by G.L. c. 140 Sec. 129B.

Persons confined to any hospital or institution because of mental illness are permanently disqualified from being issued FID cards, unless the person presents a sworn statement from a physician who is familiar with the person’s mental health history and who certifies that the person is safe to possess firearms.

Likewise, those who are or have been under treatment for or confinement for drug addiction or habitual drunkenness are prohibited from holding Firearms Identification Cards unless such a person presents an affidavit from a physician who certifies that the applicant is cured of the disqualifying condition. In such cases, there is a 5 year waiting period.

Applicants who are not of sufficient age or who have current arrest warrants or active G.L. c. 209A restraining orders issued against them cannot be issued FID cards.
Those who have been adjudicated youthful offenders for designated offenses or convicted of felonies, violent crimes, misdemeanors punishable by imprisonment for more than two years, weapons violations, or drug offenses are statutorily disqualified from being issued either a License to Carry Firearms or a Firearms Identification Card under Massachusetts law. However, except for drug trafficking and violent crimes, 5 years after conviction or release from confinement or supervision, a person’s ability to possess a non-large capacity rifle or shotgun will be restored and such a person can legally apply for and be issued an FID card.

There are No Other Conditions Allowed by law when it comes to Firearms Identification Cards in Massachusetts. Unlike licenses to carry, these FID cards allow the holder to lawfully possess non-high capacity rifles and shotguns. They do not allow holders to carry handguns, which require licenses to carry.

Restricted Firearms Identification Cards are also available they allow the holder to carry mace, OC spray, and/or pepper spray which are technically classified as ammunition under Massachusetts Law.

FID cards used to be valid for life. However, they now are valid for a maximum of 6 years. However, anyone over 70 years of age is exempt from paying the renewal fee.

The National Firearms Act (NFA)

Title II NFA refers to certain firearms, firearm accessories and other devices that are specifically regulated on a federal level. These regulations are separate from, and in addition to, those which are dictated at the state level by Massachusetts. Many of these federal laws differ sharply from Massachusetts Firearms Laws, and involve processes which may seem foreign to those unfamiliar to how the acquisition of such items is done. Because violation of federal NFA laws can carry severe penalties (often harsher than the worst penalties for violating Massachusetts firearms law) it is extremely important that one understand exactly what they are getting into when they decide to dive into the “NFA world”.

Note: Federal firearms law, including title II NFA items, is very complex. It is so complex that an entire book could be written on the subject, probably even several. The following is a guide that in many ways covers the main topics and common issues and questions that arise insofar as Massachusetts gun owners are concerned. It should not be considered a comprehensive outline on every facet of federal firearms law; this is just the tip of the iceberg. One should always consult with a firearms attorney experienced in federal Class III and NFA items.

Download our NFA Article (PDF) for more information.

This article was written by Marcus Dillof and posted by Massachusetts Firearms Attorney Jesse C. Cohen.

Firearms Possession by Minors & Unlicensed Persons

Some places, such as New York City, have extremely strict laws that have been interpreted to mean that unlicensed individuals and minors are prohibited from even touching certain firearms. Fortunately Massachusetts is not (yet) at this stage, yet there are still strict guidelines and laws that gun owners should be aware of whenever an unlicensed individual or minor has access to ones firearms or ammunition.


A few things for the reader to remember:

There are few sections in the M.G.L.’s that specifically address unlicensed individuals. Rather, it must often be inferred what is required of gun owners when dealing with unlicensed individuals and minors. This is done by careful study and analysis of applicable M.G.L.’s (such as when they state that only licensed individuals are permitted to do something), study of case law and interpretation of laws by established authorities. When my personal opinion is offered on a matter where hard facts and statutes are absent, I will duly note so.

Also, in terms of Massachusetts firearms law unlicensed individuals and minors are often simply distinctions without a difference. This is again largely because in the M.G.L.’s neither is often specifically referred to. However there are parts of the M.G.L.’s that specifically refer to minors, thus creating special circumstances for them, which I will mention where it is appropriate to do so. Minor should also not necessarily be interpreted to mean those under the age of 18, because in many respects a minor is someone under 21 (especially in terms of handguns). I will highlight this distinction where appropriate. One should remember that the two are not mutually exclusive, i.e. there are minors who are licensed and adults who are unlicensed. Lastly, one should assume that all references are made to residents of Massachusetts unless otherwise noted. Often gun owners mistakenly confuse exceptions carved out specifically for non-residents; this section will aim to rectify those inaccurate interpretations.

Lastly, because this section covers a somewhat wide area of Massachusetts firearms law it will be organized according to unlicensed individual vs. minors, and split by activity.

Unlicensed Individuals

Target Shooting and the Range

 M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 129C (m) states the following:

 “The temporary holding, handling or firing of a firearm for examination, trial or instruction in the presence of a holder of a license to carry firearms, or the temporary holding, handling or firing of a rifle or shotgun for examination, trial or instruction in the presence of a holder of a firearm identification card, or where such holding, handling or firing is for a lawful purpose”

Clause (m) allows for unlicensed individuals to shoot handguns (firearm means handgun in this section), rifles and shotguns in the presence of a licensed individual. Take special note that “presence” is used here instead of the more common “direct control”. Presence may be a less strict standard in terms of the amount of observation a licensed individual must exert over an unlicensed individual. For example, if an unlicensed individual was shooting on one end of an outdoor range, and the licensed individual walked to the other end of the range, it could still be said that the unlicensed individual was in the presence of the licensed individual, albeit probably not under their direct control.

 Why the distinction then? Because although the law does not require the higher level of observation from the licensed individual, it would still be prudent for the licensed individual to go above what the law requires and always be under the direct control of the firearm(s). Not only is this wise from a safety standard (especially when dealing with a new shooter), but because of the fact that many law enforcement officers and even perhaps range officials would be unaware of the degree of observation required.

 Note: no mention of machine guns is made. Ron Glidden in the 18th edition of “Law Enforcement Guide to Firearms Law” theorizes that this prohibits possession by anyone unlicensed, meaning those who lack a green card (machine gun license). Any NFA owner should first consult with a firearms attorney before allowing anyone unlicensed to handle their machine gun(s).

Also note that clause (m) makes no mention of age restrictions (more on this later).


There are several exemptions for non-residents that wish to engage in target shooting in Massachusetts:

M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 129C (g) –“Possession of rifles and shotguns and ammunition therefor by nonresidents while on a firing or shooting range”*

M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 131G – “Any person who is not a resident of the commonwealth may carry a pistol or revolver in or through the commonwealth for the purpose of taking part in a pistol or revolver competition or attending any meeting or exhibition of any organized group of firearm collectors or for the purpose of hunting; provided, that such person is a resident of the United States and has a permit or license to carry firearms issued under the laws of any state”**

* One should note that this exemption only covers possession of non-large capacity rifles and shotguns. Possession high-capacity rifles and shotguns, as well as handguns would require either a non-resident Class A or B LTC.

** This exemption requires that an official event be taking place. A casual afternoon outing at the range would not suffice, but a recognized .22 pin shoot may be covered. If one wishes to utilize this exemptions where appropriate they should probably take care to print out a copy of this law as well as a copy of the event announcement.


Taking Massachusetts residents hunting, whom are unlicensed and over the age of 15 hunting and also lack a hunting license is a grey area within the law. No specific exemption is made for them, even if accompanied by and in the presence of licensed individuals. Various interpretations have been taken by gun owners: for instance “As long as one person is licensed and only one long arm is shared it is legal” or “as long as only one bag limit is shared it is legal”. None of these interpretations are supported by law and thus should not be followed. They likely stem from inaccurate understanding of what is covered by the non-resident exemptions (discussed later).

If they lack both a hunting license and firearms license they can only follow along while you hunt. They can not touch your firearm or partake in hunting in any way. They should be especially mindful to be respectful of the environment; should a wildlife official approach you (plural) it could be possible for them to interpret the presence of the unlicensed individual as harassing the wildlife due to lack of official documentation permitting for their presence at the hunting location.

If they lack only a firearms license but hold a hunting license, this area gets even “greyer”. Clearly they hold a license that states they may hunt, however there is no exemption that states unlicensed (meaning firearms license) individuals may hunt regardless of being in the presence of someone holding a firearms license. It also seems to be de facto policy to require a firearms license before issuance of a hunting license, although such policy is not required by law. The MassWildlife website states the following, under the “Hunting License Purchase Requirements” section where they discuss exemptions for minors:

“In order to hunt with most types of guns, Massachusetts residents need to contact their local police station and apply for either a Firearms Identification Card (FID) or a License to Carry Firearms (LTC). Contact your local police department for information about your status regarding Massachusetts gun licensing requirements.”

This seems to require that anyone wishing to hunt that is not covered under the minor and non-resident exemptions must hold a firearms license. Even if one is to postulate that such interpretation is not grounded in the law, it still confirms that MassWildlife and their enforcement officers will likely take that approach and cite “violators” according to this reasoning. The key here is to not confuse hunting regulations with firearms law; to do such often leads to flawed interpretations of what it legal and illegal. Anyone wishing to allow an unlicensed individual, whether it be a minor or non-resident, to hunt with them should consult with a firearms attorney experienced in this specific area of the law.

Non-Resident Hunters whom are Unlicensed

M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 129C (f) specifically exempts non-resident hunters from firearms licensing requirements:

“Possession of rifles and shotguns and ammunition therefor by nonresident hunters with valid nonresident hunting licenses during hunting season”

One should note that a hunting license is still required to hunt in Massachusetts regardless of residency, and said license requires completion of a hunters safety course (refer to hunting section for more info).


 M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 131L states the requirements for firearms storage in Massachusetts:

“It shall be unlawful to store or keep any firearm, rifle or shotgun including, but not limited to, large capacity weapons, or machine gun in any place unless such weapon is secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device, properly engaged so as to render such weapon inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user. For purposes of this section, such weapon shall not be deemed stored or kept if carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user.”

Pay careful attention to this line, “properly engaged so as to render such weapon inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized user.” This means that all firearms stored must be inoperable by unauthorized users; including unlicensed individuals. To clarify, this does not mean that the firearm must be inaccessible, but rather inoperable. It could thus be argued that a licensed individual who allowed an unlicensed individual to take their cable-locked firearm into another room of the house for cleaning purposes was in full compliance with the law, assuming that the cable lock was applied in such a manner as to render the firearm inoperable (i.e. through the action).

We can infer from §§ 131L that unlicensed individuals residing in the home must not have the information necessary to unlock said firearms. For instance, if a husband had firearms secured in a safe but otherwise left unlocked then the unlicensed wife should not know the combination to the safe; otherwise the firearms would not be “properly engaged”. The same could be said for knowing the location to keys that unlock cable-locks or trigger guards secured to firearms.

An FID Card in regards to handguns would also, for the purposes of this issue, render an individual unlicensed because an FID Card does not allow for possession of a handgun in the home unless said handgun was procured via a permit to purchase.


Target Shooting and the Range

For those under the age of 21 this area of firearms law becomes very grey. This is because of seemingly contradictory laws that leave open to question what is legal and illegal for minors to shoot.

M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 129C (m):

“The temporary holding, handling or firing of a firearm for examination, trial or instruction in the presence of a holder of a license to carry firearms, or the temporary holding, handling or firing of a rifle or shotgun for examination, trial or instruction in the presence of a holder of a firearm identification card, or where such holding, handling or firing is for a lawful purpose”

M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 129C (k):

“Any person under the age of fifteen with respect to the use of a rifle or shotgun by such person in hunting or target shooting, provided that such use is otherwise permitted by law and is under the immediate supervision of a person holding a firearm identification card or a license to carry firearms”

M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 130:

“Whoever sells or furnishes… any person under eighteen years of age a rifle, shotgun, machine gun or ammunition, or whoever sells or furnishes to any person under 21 years of age a firearm or large capacity rifle or shotgun or ammunition therefor shall have his license to sell firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns and or ammunition revoked and shall not be entitled to apply for such license for ten years from the date of such revocation and shall be punished by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $10,000, or by imprisonment in a state prison for not more than ten years or by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than two and one-half years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.”


“Nothing in this section or section one hundred and thirty-one E shall be construed to prohibit a parent or guardian from allowing his child or ward, who has not attained age fifteen, the supervised use of a rifle or shotgun or ammunition therefore.

If we were to only consider clause (m) it would seem to allow for minors of any age to shoot any firearm so long as under the direct supervision of a firearms license holder appropriately licensed for said firearm (firearm means handgun in this section). Yet clause (k) only means rifles and shotguns and makes no mention of firearms (i.e. handguns) or high-capacity rifles and shotguns. It would therefore seem, taking these two clauses into account, that those under 15 are allowed only to shoot low-capacity rifles and shotguns, and those above 15 years of age are unrestricted as to what they may shoot.

Unfortunately this situation gets even murkier with the addition of M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 130, because depending on how one interprets the section it can further restrict what those under 21 may shoot. “Furnish” is of the utmost importance here; as it is up to the gun owner to determine whether allowing a minor between the ages of 15-20 to shoot a handgun or high-capacity rifle/shotgun under their direct supervision constitutes “furnishing”. One may assume that furnish is meant to indicate illicit sales, yet nowhere in the law is this stated and a gun owner should not necessarily assume such.

Furthermore, had §§ 130 included a line exempting such use for those between the ages of 15-20 while under the direct supervision of a licensed individual this dilemma would not exist, or at least it would be less grey. However the line that does exempt such use only addresses those under 15 years of age, again reiterating what §§ 129C (k) has already established in that such minors may only shoot low-capacity rifle and shotguns.

Anyone wishing to allow a minor under the age of 21 to shoot their handgun or high-capacity rifle or shotgun should first consult with an experienced firearms attorney.


Under 12 years of age

Not permitted to hunt in Massachusetts

12-14 years of age

Minors between these ages are permitted to hunt in Massachusetts. However they are not eligible to receive a hunter education certificate as well as to hold a hunting license. Thus, several restrictions apply:

  • Must be accompanied by a licensed adult
  • The bag limit established by law for one person is not exceeded
  • Only one firearm is used and shared
  • No more than one minor per each adult

15-17 years of age

Minors between these ages must have a hunting license if they wish to hunt. As previously discussed, it is a grey area to take an unlicensed individual hunting. Refer to that section for further info.

18-20 years of age

In terms of hunting regulations those between these ages are treated no differently than those 21 years old and above. However, there could be issues for said minor wishing to hunt with a handgun. At the very least they would need to be accompanied by someone duly licensed to possess a handgun, and even then it is not clear if it is ever legal for such minors to shoot a handgun. Furthermore, there are contradictory laws regarding handgun possession while hunting (please refer to the hunting section for more info).


Storage requirements are no different when a minor is involved, meaning nothing different must be done by a gun owner beyond what is already required by the law simply because a minor is living at the home.

However, the penalties that a gun owner faces for failing to properly store a firearm when a minor may have accessed it are enhanced, often quite drastically, according to M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 131L:

 Non-large capacity

  • No minor may have accessed a non-large capacity rifle or shotgun – $500-5,000 fine and/or imprisonment for up to 1 year.
  • Unlicensed minor may have accessed a non-large capacity rifle or shotgun – $1,000-10,000 fine and/or imprisonment for between 1-10 years.

Large capacity firearms

  • No minor may have accessed a large capacity firearm or machine gun – $1,000-10,000 fine and/or imprisonment for between 1-10 years.
  • Unlicensed minor may have accessed a large capacity firearm or machine gun – $5,000-10,000 fine and/or imprisonment for between 2.5-10 years.

In addition to these enhanced penalties, one must also consider how they would interpret M.G.L. c. 140, §§ 130. It may seem that “furnish” is meant as an intentional act whereby a gun owner would deliberately provide a restricted firearm to a minor. This however may or may not be the case, as a prosecutor could argue that failing to secure a firearm that a minor accessed should also carry the penalties provided in §§ 130 for furnishing a firearm to a minor: $1,000-10,000 fine and/or confinement in a prison for up to 10 years, or a jail for no more than 2.5 years.

This article was written by Marcus Dilloff.

Washington D.C.’s Gun Ban: A Failed Experiment

Those politicians in Washington D.C who champion a platform advocating for stricter gun control must be unfamiliar with the city in which they work, because aside from D.C. acting as our nation’s capital it is also infamously regarded as the murder capital of the nation. This has been true for decades, despite its almost unprecedented level of oppressive gun control – an outright ban on handguns.

In 1976 D.C. banned all future purchase of handguns by its residents (a ban, which mind you, was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2008 District v. Heller case.). At the time the ban was praised as being an effective response to the districts ridiculously high violent crime and murder rate (the highest in the nation). In summary, the ban basically stopped all sales of handguns in the city for over 30 years. Careful analysis of crime rates should indicate whether the ban was a success or not. On face value one would expect the former, since close to 70% of murders in the district were committed with a firearm (generally speaking, nearly all murders are committed with handguns). So we should see a drastic decline in the aforementioned types of crime following the 1976 ban, and an increase following it’s abolishment in 2008.

Data indicates that the murder rate per 100,000 in Washington D.C. fluctuated by as much as 5.0 during the early 1970’s. 1976 was 4.0 less than 1975, yet to the surprise of many gun control advocates 1977 witnessed a slight increase which remained stable for several years and then shot up again to where it was prior to the ban by 1980, hovering around 35 murders per 100,000 (the national average was roughly 9 from 1970-1980). Basically, following the ban there was no reduction in the violent crime rate.

Surprisingly, following the SCOTUS ruling in 2008 the crime rate actually dropped; significantly, in 2009 (data for years 2010 and 2011 were not available at the time I researched this material). 2008 had 31.5 murders per 100,000, while 2009 had 24, over a 30% decline. Is it possible that the (albeit still heavily regulated) availability of handguns persuaded some criminals to avoid targeting newly-armed victims? We may never know. What is certain is that violent crime was not affected by the districts handgun ban.

Some may argue that had it not been for nearby states with less stringent gun control measures thereby allowing illegal influx of firearms into Washington D.C., the districts violent crime rate may actually have decreased. Often ATF trace date is cited to support this position, stating that the majority of firearms confiscated and submitted to the ATF by the Metropolitan PD originated from out of state. It is my intent to point out several serious flaws with this approach.

  • In 2008 for example of 1,951 firearms submitted to the ATF for trace requests only 30 were used in homicides in 103 in assaults. Therefore the vast majority of firearms that the ATF attempts to trace are not representative of firearms used in violent crimes in the district.
  • We must also consider the fact that WashingtonD.C. maintains its own database of firearms and would likely utilize that before contacting the ATF. As a result ATF trace data in many ways specifically represents firearms that did not originate in Washington D.C. and excludes those that did, thus rendering it useless in supporting any theory that out of state firearms contribute, let alone cause Washington D.C.’s high violent crime rate.
  • Additionally, nearby cities in states such as Virginia and Maryland had single digit murder rates nearly 1/3 that of Washington D.C., which also climbed at fractions of 1 while the districts shot up often by 5 to 7 per 100,000. It would therefore be hard to argue that the violence spilled over to nearby states, when in reality the violence was an issue plaguing just the district.

It is much easier for politicians to “blame the guns” than it is to address what may be the actual root of the districts violence issues. Washington D.C. is perhaps the most unique in the county in terms of demographics, containing both a highly educated and well paid population as well as a poor minority population, each consisting of roughly half the city. This stark contrast is found in few other places in the nation, perhaps resulting in what is known in criminology as “strain theory”, where one group feels compelled to commit crime to attain the status and materials possessed by another, often better-off group. Indeed, only a small percentage (20%) of Washington D.C.(geographically speaking) accounts for over 60% of the crime in the district. Most of this area is represented by lower income individuals. These findings indicate that the true cause of crime within the district has nothing to do with guns at all, but rather far deeper societal issues.

It is a dirty secret often ignored by left-wing politicians arguing for further gun control that our nation’s capital is so bloody. Yet we must not allow them to sweep such realities under the rug. Gun control, in its strictest and most oppressive form had over 30 years to prove its success in a crime ridden city. It did not succeed; gun bans do not work. These same politicians who argue that you do not need firearm XYZ or XX number of rounds to defend yourself and family are also the ones who often have armed security escort them throughout the dangerous city, exempted from the restrictions that affect the “mere citizens”. Do not buy into their “Do as I say, not as I do” logic.

Written by Marcus Dilloff, posted by Mass. Firearms Attorney Jesse Cohen

The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban Fact & Fiction

As the current debate surrounding firearms heats up, in particular regarding devices often incorrectly referred to as “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazines, many gun control advocates are demanding a renewal of the 1994 Assault Weapons which expired in 2004. The ’94 AWB was responsible for non-retroactively prohibiting the possession of “assault rifles” that had certain features (pistol grips, bayonet lugs, flash hiders etc.) and magazines of capacities greater than 10rds. What it was not responsible for is any reduction in the crime rate during the time it was in effect, and here is why.

Before graduating with a bachelor’s degree from St. Anselm, those students in their senior year majoring in criminal justice are required to write a comprehensive research paper on a crime-related topic of their choosing. I choose to write about gun control; the title of my paper being “The Effectiveness of Federal and State Gun Control Measures at Reducing Crime Rates”. One area of legislation I examined was the 1994 AWB. I dove deep into areas and aspects of crime that are rarely if ever are mentioned when discussing the topic of gun control. I did this not only by examining existing scholarly research but also by closely analyzing crime rates of varying types to see what, if any effects the ban had. What I found flies in the face of nearly all the so-called facts and evidence that gun-control advocates offer in support of renewing what was clearly a failed piece of legislation from the ground up.

I wrote the paper before this current climate ensued, but I firmly believe my findings discussed below are more relevant now than ever before. It is my hope that when accurate, true facts such as these come to light people will be unwilling to support any renewal of the ’94 AWB. Perhaps philosopher George Santayana explained this situation best, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. So for the sake of all law-abiding gun owners who were and would be affected again, please do not forget that an assault weapons ban has been tried before and that it was a failure.

Myth: The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban was responsible for the sharp reduction in crime during the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

 Facts: It is indeed true that crime drastically declined beginning in the early 1990’s, but few if any criminologists believe the decline to be a result of the ’94 AWB. Instead, there are three major factors that are widely held to be responsible for the drop.

Crack – The 1980’s witnessed what is now referred to as the crack epidemic. It was a period of steadily increasing addition to crack cocaine by lower-income individuals, usually within inner cities, that was accompanied by a great deal of drug-related violent crime. In the early 1990’s, for reasons still debated, the crack epidemic suddenly ended.

Prison – The national average of incarcerated individuals per 100,000 rose from 292 in 1990 to 444 in 1997. Many of these individuals were responsible for the violent crime associated with the crack epidemic, and incarcerated as a result of laws aimed at crack that carried strict mandatory sentences.

Police – In 1994 Congress appropriated 9 billion dollars to hire an estimated 100,000 additional police officers, greatly increasing the ability of law enforcement to respond to and combat crack and violent crime.

Furthermore, the violent crime rate began to decline in 1993 (1,926,017 incidents) from its peak in 1992 (1,932,274 incidents), one year before the ban. It continued to decline throughout 1994 (1,857,670 incidents), and although that was indeed the year the ban was passed, it did not go into effect until near the end of the year in September, thus 1994 represents in large part a pre-ban year.

Myth: Crime began to again increase once the ban expired in 2004.

Facts: Crime did slightly increase in 2005, however much of this increase was property crimes such as theft and burglary. The second half of 2005 was a year of economic downturn and slow growth, events many criminologists attribute to rising crime rates, particularly those monetary related.

This slight increase was similar to spikes in firearm homicides that occurred in 2002 and 2003, and the national violent crime rate in 2001, during which time the ban was in effect. Furthermore, the spikes in robberies that were committed with a firearm correlated with spikes in robberies committed with other weapons. By 2009, 5 years after the ban expired and “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazines were freely available, the violent crime rate was lower than it had ever been during the AWB despite an increase in the national population by nearly 50 million since 1994

Myth: “Assault Weapons” are popular amongst criminals and widely used in crime

Facts: This is flat-out untrue. Almost every study that has examined the prevalence of “assault weapons” has found that it is exceptionally rare that they are used during the commission of a crime. Take a look at the following statistics, reported as part of research studies conducted by criminologists during the early 1990’s regarding “assault weapons” prominence amongst criminals:

In 1993, 16% of murders and 8% of ATF trace requests involved an AW in NYC. During the past while researching gun legislation in NY I have found the NYPD to use a very liberal (in the traditional sense of the term) interpretation of what constitutes an AW, so I believe these statistics to be comparatively high.

According to the ATF, none of the ten most frequently traced firearms in 1994 were “assault weapons”. Instead they were mostly cheap .25 and .38 pistols.

According to criminologist Gary Kleck, only 1.8% of firearms recovered as part of criminal investigations were “assault weapons”.

When interviewed by the LA Times in 1992 the LA Sheriff’s department reported only 28 of 341 homicides, and the LAPD only 2% of homicides involved an “assault weapon”.

Only 8% of prisoners reported having possessed an “assault weapon” when questioned in 1993, and less than 1% said they had used it during the commission of the crime for which they were imprisoned.

It is also worthy to mention that in 1994 almost 80% of firearms submitted for trace requests to the ATF were handguns; few were rifles (11%) or shotguns (10%). The percentage of rifles is actually comparatively high, as many studies have found the number to hover around 3-5%.

Myth: “High capacity” magazines dramatically increase the carnage of shootings and result in criminals firing dozens of rounds without needing to reload.

Facts: Aside from the technical impossibility of continuous fire that the media seems to believe is not only possible but frequent, it is rather uncommon that anywhere approaching 10rds are ever fired by suspects during the commission of a crime. While recent events such as the shootings in CO and CT are tragic, they exceptionally rare and constitute only a fraction of a percent of all criminal shootings. Take a look at the following numbers regarding shots fired:

In NYC in 1994 the NYPD reported the average number of shots fired by suspects during shootouts with police was 3.7. These are altercations which typically have a higher number of shots fired than other types of shootings.

Studies cited by Gary Kleck found a similar trend, with well under 10rds fired during homicides.

The number of gunshot wounds sustained by those admitted to Washington D.C.’s main trauma ward was 4 or less for 92% of victims. This was during the height of the crack epidemic in a city well known for a high violent crime rate.

Between 1974-1995 when semi-automatic rifles and “high capacity ” magazines were gaining popularity, firearm fatality rates actually decreased from 4.3 to 3.3 to 2.9%.

Written by Marcus Dilloff, posted by Massachusetts Firearms Lawyer Jesse C. Cohen

Medical Marijuana & Firearms Licensing in Massachusetts

Notwithstanding the legalization of so-called “medical marijuana” in Massachusetts, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. Sec. 812(b)(1). Schedule I substances such as marijuana, heroin, LSD, and Ecstasy cannot be sold, dispensed, prescribed or possessed under federal law and such actions are federal offenses.  Further, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has ruled that marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S., and lacks an accepted level of safety for use under medical supervision.

On Sept. 21, 2011 the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), made it clear that medical marijuana users, including those doing so in compliance with state law, should not be allowed to purchase, possess or use firearms or ammunition.  ATF takes the position that selling firearms and/or ammunition to medical marijuana users violates federal firearms law.

Under 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(g)(3), the ATF reminds firearms dealers, it is unlawful for any person who is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance” (as defined by the Controlled Substances Act) to ship, transport, receive or possess firearms or ammunition.

Federal law further makes it a crime to sell or otherwise dispose of a firearm or ammunition to anyone knowing “or having reasonable cause to believe” that the person unlawfully uses a controlled substance, such as marijuana. 18 U.S.C. Sec. 922(d)(3). A federal regulation, 27 C.F.R. Sec. 478.11, allows an inference of current illegal use of a controlled substance to be drawn from “evidence of a recent use or possession of a controlled substance or a pattern of use or possession that reasonably covers the present time.”

According to the ATF, a person who uses medical marijuana, even in compliance with state law, should answer “yes” to question 11.e. (“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”) on ATF Form 4473, Firearms Transaction Record. And licensed firearms dealers may not transfer firearms or ammunition to them. Even if the person answers “no” to this question concerning the use of controlled substances, the ATF takes the position that it is a violation of federal law to transfer a weapon or ammunition to them if a person has “reasonable cause to believe” that they use medical marijuana, such as if they have a card authorizing them to possess medical marijuana under state law.

Based on the aforementioned principles of federal law, it is likely that licensing authorities in Massachusetts will use medical marijuana use to deny License to Carry Applications.

The AR-15 Rifle: Myths Dispelled

The recent push by certain groups towards further regulations on gun ownership has been aided by a fervent media eager to capitalize on a tragic event. This often results in shoddy reporting and journalism by writers who seem to regard themselves as experts on firearms, when in reality the vast majority couldn’t tell an AR apart from an AK. The consequences are at best honest mistakes in gun terminology, and at worst deliberately misleading information on firearms intended to scare readers into developing inaccurate beliefs of firearms. This article hopes to offer honest, factual information that corrects the many myths and outright lies present in current news articles regarding firearms, particularly the AR family of rifles.

Myth: AR15’s are not widely owned by gun enthusiasts.

Facts: Gun control advocates and the media would like you to believe that AR’s are a firearm on the fringe of the gun community in the hopes of convincing people that it is a firearm that lacks acceptance even by gun owners. This is simply untrue. AR15’s are arguably the most popular civilian rifle of the 21st century. They are used for informal recreational target shooting and plinking, formal competition, hunting and home defense.

Their popularity stems from many factors that make them an attractive rifle; thorough testing and proven ability via 50 years of use by the military, widespread availability of parts and ability to customize an AR to the particular needs of each individual. One needs only step foot in any general gun shop (excluding specialty shops that cater to specific shooters) and they will likely see a particular wall or corner of the store devoted to AR’s and their parts/accessories/ammunition. These are not uncommon rifles.

Myth: The type of firearm used in shooting XYZ was an AR15 and they were banned during the 1994 Assault Weapons ban.

Facts: The AR15 has never been banned on a federal level. Certain features were banned, features that would have made zero difference whether or not they were present during some of the more recent shootings (see below).

Myth: AR15’s are assault weapons that have particularly deadly features.

Facts: It is first necessarily to point out that “assault weapon” is a term invented by those opposed to gun ownership to demonize certain firearms. “Assault weapon” sounds scarier than “AR15” or “modern sporting rifle”, right? It was never and is currently rarely referred to as such within the gun community, and few self respecting gun owners give such a derisive term any validity.

The features often criticized of AR’s do not make them any more dangerous. The 1994 Assault Weapons Ban regulated features such as collapsible stocks (the ability to adjust the length of the buttstock for comfort), flash hiders (reducing the amount of flash at the muzzle when a round is fired) and pistol grips (holding the rifle via a grip that is more vertical than it is horizontal – again associated with comfort). Even those with no knowledge of firearms should realize these features pose no additional danger.

It is true that some AR15’s do contain a bayonet lug designed to attach a knife. However, such devices are widely considered obsolete, and this author is not aware of any recent mass shooting where a bayonet attached to a rifle has been used to injure or kill anyone.

Myth: AR15’s, Glocks and other pistols have “high capacity magazine clips” that hold too much ammunition and make the firearms excessively dangerous.

Facts: First, “magazine” and “clip” are two different pieces of equipment and the terms are not interchangeable, despite the media’s frequent misuse of the terms. There is no such thing as a “magazine clip”. A magazine is a unit into which rounds of ammunition are inserted. A clip is often a strip of metal on which rounds of ammunition are aligned and then pressed into a magazine, or pressed into the integrated magazine of a firearm (typically antique and vintage firearms used integrated, internal, non-detachable magazines).

Gun control proponents often cite a 10rd limit on magazine capacities as being standard. This is a flat-out lie. Take for example the Glock 22, a .40 caliber handgun popular with civilians and police. Its standard capacity is a 15rd magazine, as it was designed and intended to use a 15rd magazine which fits flush with the grip. A 10rd magazine would therefore be considered a reduced capacity magazine, not standard. Similarly, the AR15 was designed to utilize 20 and 30rd magazines, both of which are far off from a 10rd limit. In fact, a 10rd magazine barely protrudes from the magwell of an AR15, and often causes malfunctions. Likewise, the 100rd drums that gun control proponents often cite as responsible for carnage are actually responsible for the conclusion of some shootings, as they are known to be unreliable due to spring tension and thus responsible for malfunctions. The shooter in Aurora was stopped due to a malfunction caused by the drum he utilized.

Myth: AR15’s are dangerous automatic assault rifles that can fire 100’s of bullets.

Facts: Again, this is simply incorrect. The vast majority of AR15’s are semi-automatic, meaning they fire one round for each trigger pull. Fully-automatic firearms of any variety have been regulated on a federal level for civilians since 1934, and civilian possession of post-1986 examples is prohibited. This means that a registered, fully automatic AR15 lower receiver or drop-in auto sear ranges in price anywhere from $10-16,000. They are very rare and this author knows of no instance where one was ever used in the commission of a crime.

Following up on this point, an assault rifle is a military rifle which by nature is select fire (three round burst or fully automatic). As mentioned above, such devices are exceptionally rare and never used in crime.

Myth: AR15’s shoot high-powered ammo that is exceptionally dangerous.

Facts: Rifle calibers generally range from .22 to .50 cal. The AR15 shoots a .223 diameter bullet, one of the smallest bullets used by any rifle. In comparison, many muzzle loading rifles (400 year old technology) shoot a .50 caliber ball. Although many variables affect the potency of a round, size is one of the major factors. So while the AR15 utilizes an effective round, on a scale containing all military rifle rounds from the past 100 years the .223 would be near the bottom in terms of “power”. For example, grandpa’s .30-06 deer hunting rifle would do far more damage to a human than a modern .223 AR15 would.

This article was written by By Marcus Dilloff and posted by Attorney Cohen.