We represent people accused of crimes involving guns and other weapons in state and federal court. Understanding the legal ways for a person to own, possess, and transfer a firearm in Massachusetts is crucial to understanding gun crimes prosecutions in the Commonwealth.
In order to possess or own a firearm in your residence or place of business, Massachusetts law requires that you obtain a firearms identification (“FID”) card by following the procedures listed in the applicable statute, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 129B. You must apply for an FID card with the local licensing authority and an FID card will be issued to you unless you meet a number of exceptions, including having committed certain crimes, having been subject to a restraining order, or been hospitalized for a mental illness, among others. However, an FID card does not authorize you to have all kinds of firearms and whether or not you are legally in possession of a firearm in your residence is a fact-specific question. If you have been charged with possessing a firearm without compliance with FID card requirements in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, § 10(h)(1), contact us and we will help you figure out whether you were in fact in lawful possession of the firearm or whether there are other grounds to avoid prosecution.
An FID card does not authorize a person to carry a firearm outside of his or her home or place of business. For such a privilege, you must apply for a license to carry, following the requirements under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131. Once you apply to the appropriate licensing authority or colonel of the state police for a Class A or Class B license (depending on the weapon), the licensing authority will grant the license if it appears that the applicant is a suitable person and has good reason to fear injury to his person or property, or for other reasons, such as use in sport or target practice, with certain exceptions. These exceptions include convictions for certain offenses, confinement at mental illness institutions, treatment or confinement for drug addictions, immigration status, and age, among others.
A person who is found to carry a firearm without a license can be charged under Mass. Gen. Laws. ch. 269, § 10(a) and faces a minimum term of imprisonment of 18 months. As with the crime of possessing a firearm in one’s home without an FID card, a conviction based on this charge can turn on where you were found to have been carrying the firearm, your knowledge at the time, and the type of weapon you were carrying.
In addition, possessing a firearm, within or outside of your home or place of business, is unlawful for persons with certain criminal convictions, including all felonies. It is a federal crime to possess a firearm if you have been convicted of a crime that is punishable by prison time of more than one year (which is why the shorthand name for the law is “felon” in possession of a firearm). There are also a number of other categories of persons prohibited from possessing a firearm, including fugitives, drug addicts, persons subject to active restraining orders, and those who are undocumented aliens in the United States, among others. Importantly, the law also prohibits these persons from possessing ammunition in addition to the firearm. A conviction for felon in possession of a firearm (or ammunition) in federal court can have grave consequences; it can carry a harsh sentence if the crime is committed after the person has committed a felony which involves violence or a drug crime, with the maximum sentence being 10 years. This is a serious offense with serious consequences. If you have been charged with this crime, please call us at 617-742-6020.