Demystifying Firearm and Gun Laws: Key Considerations for Responsible Ownership and Legal Defense
There are 393.3 million civilian-owned guns in the U.S.—enough to arm every man, woman, and child and have over 50 million left. The U.S. is the most heavily-armed nation in the world.
Many Americans keep guns for protection, sport, or hunting. But regulations around firearm and gun ownership in the country are lax. For example, under federal and most state laws, one is not required to complete firearm safety training and can purchase and carry a gun with zero experience.
With the lax regulations and the sustained rise in mass shootings and gun violence and accidents, it is now more important than ever for everyone to understand firearm and gun laws, responsible gun ownership, and the legal implications of using a firearm in self-defense.
Overview of federal and state firearm and gun laws
The 2nd Amendment protects the right of Americans to keep and bear arms. But the right to own guns is not unlimited. It is regulated by federal and state laws.
Federal gun laws
Federal gun laws include the following:
- People under 18 years of age, the mentally disabled, convicted criminals, and discharged military personnel cannot purchase firearms. People under the age of 18 can purchase long guns like shotguns and rifles.
- All unlicensed individuals purchasing a gun from federally authorized dealers must undergo a background check.
- Certain types of firearms and accessories, like short-barreled rifles and shotguns, machine guns, suppressors, and grenades, are restricted.
Massachusetts gun laws
Massachusetts gun laws are among the most restrictive in the U.S. The laws include the following:
- People must be 21 years or above to obtain ownership and carry licenses.
- First-time firearm license applicants must complete a Basic Hunter Education Course or a MA Certified Firearms Safety Course. The certificate of completion is submitted with the application.
- Apart from primitive firearms, guns must be stored in locked storage.
- Assault weapons are prohibited.
- Magazines with a capacity of over ten rounds are illegal to possess.
Everyone should be familiar with gun laws before owning one.
Tips and best practices for responsible gun ownership
Gun ownership comes with immense responsibility. Nearly 350 children under 17 years access a gun and injure or kill themselves or someone else unintentionally, according to Everytown, a non-profit focusing on preventing gun violence. 77% of these incidents happen inside a home. Additionally, over 380,000 guns are stolen from private gun owners every year.
All gun owners must take steps to use their guns safely and store them securely to avoid accidents and violating gun laws. Here are some tips and best practices for responsible gun ownership.
- Learn all applicable laws and regulations: Gun owners should be familiar with all the applicable federal, state, and local laws regulating firearms to comply with them.
- Seek training and education: Gun owners should seek firearm safety training and learn best practices, even if they’re experienced. Training and education can involve taking a firearms safety course or participating in a shooting sports program.
- Be mindful of others: Responsible gun owners understand the impact firearms can have on others. The gun owners are considerate, and don’t discharge their firearms in dangerous areas or where guns can cause a disturbance.
- Secure the firearm: One of the most important aspects of responsible and safe gun ownership is ensuring guns are stored securely. Gun owners can use a gun safe, gun lock, or other secure storage devices to restrict access, and keep the gun separate from the ammunition. It will help prevent shootings and gun suicides.
- Consider smart guns and gun safety features: “Smart” guns require authorization to use, like the passcode or fingerprint scan on smartphones. Smart guns are harmless if stolen or accessed by children. Gun owners can also use other safety features for preventing unauthorized use, such as trigger locks and cable locks.
Gun owners can prevent accidents and promote a culture of responsible gun ownership by following the above tips and best practices.
The legal implications of using a firearm
Using a gun in Massachusetts can have serious legal implications resulting in criminal charges, civil lawsuits, and financial and personal consequences. But it depends on the circumstances.
There are no legal implications if a gun is used legally and responsibly. Legal and responsible use include hunting, recreational shooting, and competitive shooting sports. However, some situations may not be legal or responsible, including the following:
Using a gun negligently could involve mishandling it in a public place or firing it irresponsibly. The shooter or gun owner may be charged with unlawful discharge or reckless endangerment.
If a gun is used in a crime the shooter may be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. They may be charged with murder if they killed someone. If the gun was stolen, the owner may be traced and held liable if they had improperly stored the gun. The owner may also be charged if they did not report when the firearm was stolen.
The law of self-defense protects people who use their guns to protect themselves or others. It allows people to use guns to prevent imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
In a Massachusetts self-defense case, if the shooter was not at home or at their business, they have a duty to retreat. Duty to retreat means if there’s a chance to retreat from a situation, it should be the first option before resorting to deadly force. However, the shooter may be held liable if they used excessive force.
Gun owners should understand the legal implications of using a firearm to use firearms responsibly within the regulations of the law.
Preserve the right to own and use firearms
Gun ownership comes with significant responsibilities that everyone must take seriously. Gun owners must understand laws governing guns and the best practices for responsible gun ownership to avoid legal, financial, and personal implications. It will reduce the risk of firearm-related incidents, while preserving the right to own and use a firearm. Call Riccio Law at 617-404-8878 to schedule a free consultation.