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What are the Gun Laws in Massachusetts?

A Synopsis of State Laws on Purchase, Possession and Carrying of Firearms

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A non-resident U.S. citizen with a license to carry a handgun issued by his home state may carry a handgun in Mass. for the purpose of taking part in a competition or exhibition of an organized group of firearms collectors, or for hunting provided he has a valid hunting license issued by Mass. or the state of his destination.

Antiques and Replicas

An antique firearm is defined as any handgun, rifle or shotgun manufactured in or before 1899, or any replica thereof which is not designed for firing fixed ammunition or which uses fixed ammunition no longer manufactured in the United States and no longer readily available commercially. A FID card is not required to possess antique and replica firearms in the home or place of business. A license to carry is required when antique and replica handguns are being carried outside the home or place of business.

Machine Guns

A machine gun "is a weapon of any description . . . from which a number of shots or bullets may be rapidly or automatically discharged by one continuous activation of the trigger, and includes a submachine gun."

It is unlawful to possess a machine gun without a license. Application is made to the local licensing authority or colonel of state police who, in his discretion, may issue a license to any applicant who is a firearm instructor certified by the criminal justice training council for instructing police personnel or is a bona fide collector of firearms.

Miscellaneous Provisions

  • Although persons in the military and other peace officers are exempt from the above requirements, this exemption is applicable only when they are performing their official duties or when duly authorized to possess weapons. It is not applicable for any private or sporting use of such rifles, shotguns or handguns.

  • Air guns and BB guns are regulated by the above provisions.

  • It is unlawful to possess, sell, or transfer any firearm whose shape does not resemble a handgun or short-barreled rifle or shotgun, or that is not detectable by x-ray or metal detector.

  • It is unlawful to remove, deface or alter in any manner the serial or identification number of a firearm, or knowingly to receive such a firearm. Possession of a firearm with an altered or defaced number creates a legal presumption that the possessor committed the offense.

  • Discharge of any firearm within 500 feet of a building in use is prohibited, except with the consent of the owner or legal occupant, in defense of life and property, or at licensed shooting galleries, target, test, trap or skeet ranges with the permission of the owner or legal occupant.

  • In the event of theft, loss or recovery of any firearm, the owner is required to notify the executive director of the Criminal History Systems Board, and the licensing authority in the city or town where the owner resides.

  • Any person in possession of any firearm is required to exhibit his FID, receipt for FID card fee, license to carry, or hunting license to a law enforcement officer upon demand. If the person fails to display the appropriate document, he may be required to surrender his firearm, although he may recover it if he produces the license within 30 days.

  • The governor shall appoint a 7 member gun control advisory board. Their duties include compiling and publishing a roster of large capacity rifles, shotguns, handguns, and feeding devices.

  • Any handgun or large capacity firearm sold without a safety device approved by the colonel of state police "shall be defective and the sale of such weapon shall constitute a breach of warranty ... and an unfair or deceptive trade act or practice." This creates a civil cause of action.

  • All firearms must be stored or kept secured in a locked container or equipped with a lock or other safety device. A firearm is not considered stored or kept if carried by or under the control of the owner or other lawfully authorized user. A violation of this provision is evidence of wanton or reckless conduct in any criminal or civil proceeding if a person under 18 gains access to a firearm. A violation of this provision is also criminally punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment up to 10 years.

  • In a domestic relations restraining order the court shall also order the defendant to surrender any firearm, ammunition, and cards and licenses therefor if it makes a determination that the defendant presents a likelihood of abuse to the plaintiff.

Additional Provisions for Boston

In Boston under a vague law it is unlawful to possess, display, transfer, or receive, without a license granted by the Boston Police Commissioner:
  • Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder and/or a capacity exceeding six rounds.

  • A semiautomatic rifle with a fixed magazine capacity exceeding 10 rounds.

  • Any SKS, AK47, UZI, AR-15, Steyr AUG, FN-FAL, and FN-FNC rifle.

  • Any semiautomatic pistol which is a modification of a proscribed rifle or shotgun with a shorter barrel or no stock, and any magazine or belt which holds more than 10 rounds.

An "assault weapons roster board" may add additional firearms to the list of so-called "assault weapons."

Such firearms must have been registered with the Boston Police Commissioner within 90 days of the effective date of the law (12/9/89), or they are unlawful.

An owner of a firearm added to the roster of assault weapons must obtain a license to possess it within 90 days of its addition, or it becomes unlawful.

The provision does not apply to possession by non-residents of Boston at a sporting or shooting club by persons who possess the requisite state license to carry.

It also does not apply to persons taking part in competition or at a collectors’ exhibit or meeting or traveling to or from such event or while in transit through Boston for the purpose of hunting by licensed hunter, provided that in all cases the "assault weapon" is unloaded and packaged and the person has a Massachusetts FID card or has a license or permit to carry or possess firearms issued by another state.

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