In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, residents are allowed to purchase and carry certain kinds of firearms. However, there are laws in place to regulate who is eligible to own a gun and restrictions on the types of weapons permitted under certain licenses. In order to avoid violating Massachusetts law, it is important to understand the differences between licenses, the process of obtaining them, and penalties for possessing a firearm without the proper requirements.
What is an FID (Firearms Identification card)?
An FID is specific to the purchase and possession of non-large capacity rifles, shotguns and ammunition. In order to apply for a FID, a Massachusetts resident must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old, or between ages 14-17 with parental permission
- Pay a $100 application fee
- Supply proof of address (utility bill, lease agreement)
- Provide proof of identity (Massachusetts driver’s license or learning permit, Massachusetts ID card, college ID card)
- Provide proof of lawful US residence (passport, Naturalization Certificate, Certificate of Citizenship, Green Card, U.S. birth certificate
First-time applicants for an FID card must also pass a safety course (unless they are active military personnel). They have the option of a firearm safety certificate, which is usually a one-day course taught by an instructor certified by the Massachusetts Department of State Police and is the best option for general firearm safety knowledge. If the applicant wants to purchase a firearm for hunting purposes, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife offers Basic Hunter Education Courses which cover safety and ethics guidelines for new hunters as well as fulfill requirements for a Massachusetts hunting license.
What is the Difference Between an FID and LTC (License to Carry)?
A License to Carry in Massachusetts allows the holder to purchase, possess, transport and carry firearms with a larger capacity than an FID, defined as semi-automatic handguns and rifles that can hold ten rounds or more, semi-automatic shotguns with the capacity for more than five shells, or assault weapons. Unlike an FID, an LTC also permits the carrying of concealed handguns. New applicants for an LTC must also complete a safety training course.
It is extremely important to understand which kinds of firearms are permitted under each license. Since an FID does not permit the holder to carry handguns or semi-automatic weapons, doing so while holding an FID would be in breach of the law.
What are the Restrictions to Obtaining an FID?
Besides age restrictions and legal US residency requirements, certain criminal convictions prevent applicants from being granted an FID.
- Youthful offenders. If an applicant was convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for more than two years, or certain weapons, domestic violence, drug or violent crimes as a juvenile, they may be permanently denied an FID, or in some cases, only five years after they are released from probation or parole.
- History of institutional treatment for mental illness or substance abuse. The applicant may be granted a permit with an affidavit provided by a medical professional more than five years
- An outstanding warrant for arrest.
How Else Are Guns Regulated in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, firearms are also regulated in the ways they are transported and stored. Under an FID or LTC license, non-large capacity rifles and shotguns must be transported while unloaded, but do not have to be in a locked case.
Handguns can only be transported under an LTC. They can be carried on the owner’s person or in their vehicle loaded or unloaded, as long as the gun remains in their direct control. If the handgun is not in their direct control or is unattended, it must be in a locked case.
Large-capacity rifles and shotguns can only be transported under an LTC and must be unloaded and in a locked container, or locked in the trunk of the vehicle.
While hunting, owners are permitted to carry rifles or shotguns (loaded or unloaded) as long as they also have a valid hunting license, but may not carry or fire their weapon within 500 feet of a building (unless they have the owner’s permission), on or across a road, or within 150 feet of a highway.
Massachusetts also has strict rules about how guns can be stored in a home.They must be locked, either in a container, or a safety lock on the gun itself, and recommended to be unloaded and stored separately from ammunition.
Penalties for Possession of a Firearm Without an FID Card in Massachusetts
If a gun owner in Massachusetts does not have a valid FID card, they are in breach of the law under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 269, Section 10h. The penalties for breaking this law are:
- Up to two years in a jail or house of correction and a fine up to $500
- For a second offense, up to two years in a house of correction or a fine up to $1000
If a police officer believes there is probable cause that the law has been broken, they can make the arrest without a warrant.
What if I Am Charged with Possession of a Firearm Without an FID Card in Massachusetts?
There are a number of reasons why a gun owner may be charged with violating this law. They may have an FID license that has expired, or they have a firearm that is licensed in another state and were not aware that they needed to obtain an FID in Massachusetts. If a family member leaves the state, or passes away, and the gun is in the defendant’s home, that is a technical breach of the law.
The defendant may also not be aware that they possess a firearm. If a firearm belonging to someone else is left behind in their home or vehicle that they did not know about, this can be used as a defense against conviction.
In order to be convicted, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed a firearm (which meets the legal definition of a firearm).
If you are facing a charge of Possession of a Firearm Without an FID Card, you could be penalized with jail time, a fine, and the possibility of losing the opportunity to legally own a firearm. An experienced defense attorney will help you navigate the legal system and ensure the best possible outcome. Contact us today for a free consultation.