New Firearms Law Likely to be Passed

The latest version of the proposed Massachusetts Firearms Legislation will allow police chiefs and licensing authorities to refuse to issue Firearms Identification Cards (FIDs) to individuals who they find are not suitable to hold such licenses.

Currently, if an applicant is not statutorily prohibited from holding a Firearms Identification Card, the law requires that the licensing authority “shall issue” the FID. This means that the police chief cannot deny someone a Firearms Identification Card, which allows the individual to possess rifles, shotguns, and ammunition so long as the person is not legally prohibited from holding such a license.

The proposed legislation would allow police chiefs and firearms licensing officials in Massachusetts to refuse to issue FIDs to those who are determined to be unsuitable, so long as the police obtain approval from a judge within ninety (90) days of the application.

This legislation is a “compromise bill.” Police chiefs wanted to be able to deny FID cards based on suitability without having to obtain judicial approval in advance. Advocates for gun owners wanted to keep the “shall issue” provision, which prevents licensing authorities from considering suitability when it comes to FID cards.

The Bill contains other provisions which creates an internet based web portal to be used for background checks which are to be conducted prior to private sales of firearms, rifles, or shotguns. The legislation also contains a provision which makes Massachusetts part of the National Instant Check (NICS) system.  Finally, the Bill creates a Firearms Tracking Unit within the Massachusetts State Police and increases penalties for certain crimes involving firearms.

The Bill was the product of a conference committee comprised of members of both the House and Senate. By requiring licensing officers to seek judicial approval prior to denying FID cards, the Bill satisfies licensing officials while it satisfies some gun owner advocates by shifting the burden to the Chief of Police to prove that an applicant is not suitable.