Massachusetts was one of nine states that had some form of may-issue laws before the Supreme Court ruling in the Bruen case that struck down a centuries-old law in New York. May-issue means applicants must pass basic requirements, and the issuing authority (county sheriff, police department, etc.) is allowed to use their own discretion in either issuing or denying a permit. Some may-issue states require an applicant to show “good cause” for obtaining a permit, while others require the applicant to show he or she is of suitable character and may require character references to authorize a permit. Now, New York and 8 other states, are required to issue permits/licenses if the applicant meets the basic requirements set by the state. So, what does this mean for Massachusetts?
What Did the Laws Look Like Before Bruen?
Before the Supreme Court struck down the centuries-old law in New York, it was next to impossible to obtain a concealed carry license in Massachusetts as well. An applicant would need to show a “good reason” for self-defense. The local police station (or State Police Firearms Records Bureau for out-of-state applicants) would then determine if the “good reason” was sufficient enough to warrant a permit to carry a firearm outside the home. For most applicants, the “good reason” aspect of the process was hardly ever met, leaving many law-abiding citizens without proper means of self-defense.
In addition to the difficulties in obtaining a permit before the ruling, Massachusetts gun laws are quite stringent. A Firearm Identification (FID) card or LTC is required to purchase a firearm. Background checks are required to buy a handgun from a private individual, as the seller must verify the buyer’s Firearm Identification Card with the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services. An LTC is also required to buy ammunition. Although the registration of handguns isn’t required, all sellers of firearms must report firearms sales and transfers to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services, which maintains comprehensive records of sales and transfers.
Massachusetts’s Response to the Supreme Court Decision
Massachusetts lawmakers were quite unhappy with the Supreme Court’s decision to restore Second Amendment rights to its citizens. Sen. Eric Lesser said “I think it was a terrible decision and it is going to have impacts in Massachusetts because we have a similar type of law.” Massachusetts lawmakers have not passed any bills in response to the Supreme Court decision yet. However, Amendment 13 to HB 5046 would create some new provisions to current concealed carry applicant requirements. Those provisions include removing the “good reason” requirement for permit applicants but could cut the length of a permit’s validity in half.
House Speaker Ron Mariano tasked Judiciary Committee Co-chair Rep. Mike Day (D – Stoneham) to work on an “omnibus gun safety bill” for the 2023-2024 legislative session.