The concept of “possession” is very important when it comes to Massachusetts Firearms Laws. This is because the degree of possession is not a constant (i.e. it changes); therefore the condition of your firearm required by the law will change. Fortunately, for the purpose of simplicity (a rare thing when discussing gun law!) and firearms possession in Massachusetts, one phrase is almost always referred to; direct possession.
Direct control is important because depending on whether or not your firearm is under your direct control will decide how you must store it. Generally speaking, if a firearm is under your direct control there are fewer regulations that you must comply with.
Unfortunately, there is no definition of what direct control actually means, and like many other areas of firearms law, this term is left open to interpretation. Many people interpret direct control to mean within arms reach. For example, under this belief a firearm next to you on a table would likely be in your direct control, although a firearm in the other room would probably not be. Others use a stricter interpretation and more or less believe that if the firearm is not literally strapped to your hip it is not under your direct control. Still others (usually the minority) use a more liberal interpretation, for instance any firearm in your home is under your direct control. On the extreme end, an argument could probably even be made that if your firearm is not in your hands then it is not under your direct control.
This author does not advocate for one interpretation over another in this section; it will be for the reader to decide which they believe complies with the law after carefully weighing their options. However, I will say this: generally speaking it usually provides more legal protection and a lesser likelihood of encountering trouble when gun owners use a more careful, stricter interpretation of gun laws. This makes it harder, rather than easier for law enforcement and prosecutors to claim that according to their interpretation you were violating the law. The laws were probably intentionally written so as to make it easy to prosecute a gun owner; do not make it any easier.
This article was written by By Marcus Dilloff and posted by Attorney Cohen.