Proposed Firearms Inspection Plan Likely to Fail

G.L. c. 140 § 131L requires Massachusetts gun owners to securely store their firearms. To enforce this law, Swampsott Selectman Barry Greenfield has suggested that police should ensure compliance with this law by conducting inspections of gun owner’s homes. Assumedly, under the proposed plan, police officers would conduct random inspections of firearms owners’ homes to confirm that their weapons were securely locked or under the owner’s immediate control.

Such a plan is likely to fail constitutional scrutiny. The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights both protect citizens from “unreasonable searches and seizures.” Indeed, “nowhere are expectations of privacy greater than in the home.”

Charges of unsecured firearms are filed, in most cases, when the police are lawfully present in someone’s home, usually in response to a report of a crime, and an officer makes a “plain view” observation of a handgun, rifle, or shotgun which was left unattended and not secured. Allowing officers to enter into private residences solely for the purpose of seeing whether weapons are kept pursuant to G.L. c. 140 § 131L is highly unlikely to succeed.