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Regulations and Penalties for Unlicensed Carrying of a Firearm in Massachusetts


Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may be facing mandatory minimum sentencing and other severe penalties upon conviction. If you are found in possession of a firearm without the proper license, you will need the help of an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney.

Massachusetts Gun Licensing Laws

Massachusetts law provides two different types of gun licenses based on what kind of firearm a person owns and whether they plan to carry it on their person:

  • A Firearm Identification Card (FID) allows someone to purchase, possess, or transport any rifle or shotgun that is not classified as large-capacity. “Large capacity” is defined as any semi-automatic handgun or rifle with a capacity of ten rounds or more, shotguns with a capacity of five shotgun shells, or any assault weapon.
  • A License to Carry (LTC) allows someone to purchase, possess, borrow, lease, or carry all types of lawful firearms. This includes handguns, shotguns, rifles, large-capacity firearms, and ammunition and feeding devices for these weapons. A license to carry is also required for a person to carry a concealed firearm.

Penalties for Unlicensed Carrying of a Firearm

While illegally carrying any gun is a crime, the punishment for each offense depends on the circumstances of the violation. Crimes that involve carrying a firearm in public typically have more severe penalties than keeping an unlicensed firearm in your home or business. For example, penalties may vary depending on whether you:

  • Possessed an unlicensed gun in your home or business. Unlawful gun possession may be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor and carries a sentence of up to two years in prison.
  • Carried a handgun in public. Massachusetts law imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 months in jail or prison for illegally carrying a firearm, even for a first offense. A minimum sentence must be served day-for-day and cannot be suspended.
  • Carried a loaded weapon. If you were carrying a loaded firearm without a license, you may be sentenced to an additional 2.5 years in prison after the 18-month mandatory minimum. 
  • Illegally transported a firearm in a vehicle. In order to legally carry a handgun in a vehicle, you must have an LTC and the gun must be within your direct control. If you leave the firearm unattended for any length of time, it must be unloaded and placed in a locked container. If you have an FID or LTC, you may legally have a non-large-capacity rifle or shotgun in your vehicle as long as it is unloaded. To transport large-capacity rifles and shotguns, you must have an LTC and ensure the guns are unloaded and stored in a locked case or similar secure container.

Possession of a Shotgun or Rifle on a Public Way in Massachusetts

Even if you have the appropriate license for your firearm, Massachusetts generally prohibits possession of a loaded rifle or shotgun on any public way. Unloaded rifles or shotguns may be carried in public by licensed persons as long as they are enclosed in a case. However, there may be exceptions for hunting purposes.

Possession of a shotgun or rifle on a public way can be a felony or misdemeanor charge, resulting in:

  • A fine between $100 and $1,000 for carrying an unloaded shotgun or rifle on a public way
  • Two years in jail and a fine between $500 and $5,000 for carrying a loaded shotgun or rifle on a public way
  • Up to 10 years in prison for carrying an unloaded large-capacity shotgun or rifle with a partially-loaded large capacity loader
  • Up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for carrying a loaded large-capacity shotgun or rifle

There are a number of valid defenses for weapons charges, and the one that will work for you depends on the circumstances of the arrest. We may be able to suppress the firearm, refute the claim that the gun was in your possession, or argue for a reduction of the charges. If you’re facing conviction, we may be able to have your sentence suspended in lieu of probation.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you’ve been arrested on an OUI/DUI charge, domestic violence, disorderly conduct, or drug possession, you should speak to an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible. You can contact us online or call our office directly at 781-740-0800 to schedule your free consultation with one of our top-notch defense lawyers. We have been proudly servicing clients throughout Norwell, Massachusetts, and surrounding areas such as Plymouth, Barnstable, Nantucket, and more.