The Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. This right, however, is subject to reasonable government regulation.  Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country. Some charges have mandatory minimum sentences, and the laws are very complicated.

The most important thing to understand is that Massachusetts makes it a crime to possess a gun, feeding device, or ammunition without a proper license or legal exemption.  In Massachusetts, a License to Carry (LTC) is required for handguns and a Firearms Identification Card (FID) is required for rifles and shotguns. 

Our laws have a multi-tiered system for the possession of different types of weapons. A Class “A” LTC gives the holder a right to possess large-capacity weapons (those capable of firing more than ten rounds without reloading).  Large-capacity weapons include handguns, rifles, and shotguns.  If you want to carry a concealed weapon, you must have a Class “A” LTC. A Class “B” LTC permits the holder to possess unconcealed, non-large capacity weapons, including handguns. 

Under Massachusetts law, many people are permanently precluded from ever possessing a firearm. This includes convicted felons and people who have been convicted of: a misdemeanor which carries the possibility of a sentence greater than two years; a violent crime; violation of any firearms law punishable by imprisonment; or a violation of most narcotic laws.  A continuance without a finding on someone’s record does not necessarily disqualify them from getting a firearm. Gun Crimes Defense Attorney

Absent an LTC, an FID is necessary to possess non-large capacity rifles or shotguns. An FID card will not allow someone to possess or buy a handgun or large-capacity weapons. If a person has been convicted of a felony, a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for more than two years, a firearms offense carrying the possibility of imprisonment, or most narcotic laws, then that person is temporarily disqualified from being issued an FID for five years from the time of conviction, release from confinement, discharge from probation or parole, whichever is last occurring. Firearms crimes are set forth in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269. 

Common Firearms Offenses in Massachusetts

  • Possession of a Firearm—a “10(a) Offense.”  10(a) refers to the specific statute in Chapter 269 governing the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm. If you are caught possessing a firearm in public without an LTC or possessing a firearm in your home or business without an LTC or FID, then a conviction carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 18 months in jail and the potential of a state prison sentence. This type of charge is a felony.  If the Commonwealth prosecutes you under this section, a continuance without a finding is not available. 
  • Possession of a Firearm—a “10(h) Offense.”  This is often called a “simple possession” case.  If you are caught in possession of a firearm without a proper license, there is no minimum sentence and it’s a misdemeanor offense with a maximum sentence of two years in the House of Corrections. 
  • Possession of a Loaded Firearm—a “10(n) Offense.”  This type of offense is deals with what is called on and after time. If you are charged with a 10a Offense and the firearm is loaded, you can also be charged with possession of a loaded firearm. If you are convicted of this crime, you will be further punished for a sentence of not more than two and a half years in the House of Correction.  This sentence would not begin until after the expiration of the sentence for the 10a Offense.  Importantly, to be convicted of this crime, you must know that the firearm was loaded. 
  • Possession of a Large Capacity Feeding Device.  A large capacity feeding device is one that holds more than ten rounds of ammunition to be fed continuously into a semi-automatic rifle or shotgun. Conviction under this crime carries with a state prison sentence of two and a half to ten years, with a minimum term of imprisonment of one year. 
  • Possession of a Machine Gun.  The crime applies to machines guns or sawed-off shotguns.  A machine gun is a weapon from which a number of shots may be rapidly or automatically discharged by one continuous activation of the trigger. A sawed-off shotgun is any weapon made from a shotgun, if as modified, has a barrel less than 18 inches or an overall length of less than 26 inches.  Conviction under this statute is serious and carries with it a mandatory minimum sentence of 18 months, and a maximum sentence of life. 
  • Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony.  In this type of crime, if you are caught with a firearm during the commission of a felony, in addition to the penalty for that felony, you will be sentenced to an additional mandatory five-year state prison sentence. If that firearm is found to be a large-capacity weapon or machine gun, the sentence is a mandatory ten-year state prison sentence.

Massachusetts Exemptions to LTC or FID Requirements

  • Imitation firearm
  • Signal device
  • Federal firearms dealers if they are transporting or storing firearms
  • Voluntary surrender of gun
  • Ordinary shipping
  • Target concession (think about shooting games at a carnival)
  • Under 15 years old and under immediate supervision.  The person supervising the youth must have an FID or LTC
  • For film, TV or stage production if under supervision of an FID or LTC holder
  • Temporary instruction, examination or firing in the presence of an LTC or FID holder
  • Transfer to heir provided the recipient gets an LTC or FID
  • Military or police
  • Black powder rifles and shotguns
  • Official veterans organizations
  • Museums, provided the guns are unloaded and secured from unauthorized handling
  • Bank collateral for a secured transaction
  • Antique if manufactured before 1900

Six Exemptions for Non-resident Possession of Rifles, Shotguns, and Ammunition in MA

  1. You must meet the gun requirements in the state you live;
  2. You must have a valid non-resident hunting license during hunting season; OR
  3. Be at a shooting range; OR
  4. Be traveling in or through Massachusetts with your gun unloaded and enclosed in a container; OR
  5. Be at a firearms display organized by an existing gun collectors’ club; OR
  6. Be 18 or older when buying a rifle or shotgun from a licensed firearms dealer provided that the buyer has a valid firearms license from his state of residence and that the licensing requirements in the buyer’s state are as stringent as the Commonwealth’s for an FID

Additionally, if you are a new resident to Massachusetts or released from any U.S. military, you may possess, but not carry in public, firearms, rifles, shotguns, and ammunition for 60 days.  A nonresident may carry a handgun in or through Massachusetts in order to take part in a competition or hunting excursion so long as the nonresident is a U.S. resident, has a valid LTC from another state, and has a hunting license. 

Nate Amendola
Massachusetts criminal defense attorney, helping resolve OUI, domestic violence, drug and criminal charges