Getting a License to Carry

In Massachusetts, a license to carry firearms is required to carry a handgun outside of your home or place of business. For Massachusetts residents, Licenses to Carry Firearms are issued by local police chiefs. You must apply in the city or town where you reside or have a “place of business.”

The process of obtaining a License to Carry Firearms (LTC), which some refer to as a pistol permit or concealed weapons permit (CWP), begins with the submission of an application to the local chief of police or his or her designee.

Proof of completion of a Basic Firearms Safety Course (BFS) is required for all first-time applications. The purpose of this course is to insure that the applicant has sufficient knowledge of firearms safety, so that he or she can carry and possess firearms in a safe manner.

Upon receipt of your License to Carry Application, the licensing officer will conduct a computerized background investigation which will include a check of your local, state, and federal criminal record as well as a check with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, to see if you have been committed for mental illness. The licensing officer may also check to see if you have been committed for alcoholism. The investigation of your application will undoubtedly also include a local check of the police department’s “in-house” records. Police reports which do not result in charges or convictions can be used to deny your application.

Incident to your application, you will be fingerprinted and these prints will be searched against state and federal law enforcement databases to see if you have been arrested. This part of the process is designed to “screen out” those who may have given false names or other information.

If the licensing authority identifies any statutory disqualifers, such as restraining orders, felony or serious misdemeanor convictions, or other mandatory “show stoppers,” you will be denied a firearms license. Incident to the processing of your application for a firearms license, the Firearms Records Bureau of the Department of Criminal Justice Information Systems, (DCJIS), which was formerly known as the Criminal History Systems Board, will check with the Office of the Commissioner of Probation to see if you have any sealed records on file. If you have a sealed record, adult or juvenile, which contains statutory disqualifying offenses, your license will be denied.

Assuming that there is nothing which would disqualify you from being issued a license to carry firearms in Massachusetts, the next step is for the licensing authority to assess your “suitability” to possess a firearms license. The law affords police chiefs and licensing officials wide latitude and discretion when it comes to deciding who gets a License to Carry and who does not. The burden is on you, as the applicant, to prove that you are a suitable person to hold a LTC.

If the Police Chief or his designee determines that you are not legally prohibited from holding a license to carry firearms and that you are suitable to hold such a license, the next step is for the licensing authority to determine whether or not you have a “proper purpose.” Again, the burden is on you as the applicant to satisfy the police that you have a legitimate reason to carry a gun. Often, licenses are restricted for sporting, hunting, or target shooting. In cases such as these, you cannot carry a gun for personal protection. The basis for these restrictions is that many police chiefs do not want citizens walking around their communities with loaded guns.

In some communities, the police will require you to attend a personal interview with the chief or his licensing officer to help the police better assess your suitability and “proper purpose.” Also, the police sometimes require that you pass a practical examination which may involve shooting, to demonstrate that you can safely handle a firearm.

Once you pass the licensing criteria, and pay the required fee, you will be issued your license to carry firearms.