In early December, NRA-ILA alerted gun owners to an ongoing dispute between the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and the state courts. The governor’s office had advised that it would refuse to comply with lawful court orders to reinstate some Massachusetts residents’ Firearms Identification Cards. Early this week, the Boston Globe reported that the Governor’s office had reversed course and will comply with the court orders, returning Massachusetts to some semblance of a Republican form of government.
As NRA-ILA previously noted, in Massachusetts, all prospective firearms owners are required to obtain a Firearms Identification card. Even licenses for the possession of a shotgun or rifle are effectively may-issue, with local law enforcement having significant discretion on who may or may not possess a firearm.
Under Massachusetts state law, a person denied a FID card as the result of a conviction for certain misdemeanor offenses punishable by up to two and a half years in prison are eligible to appeal the denial to the state Firearms Licensing Review Board. This is an important protection for Massachusetts residents, as many nonviolent misdemeanors in the state are punishable by up to two and a half years imprisonment, including a first offense for operating under the influence.
Under federal law, a person who is convicted of a state misdemeanor punishable by more than two years in prison is prohibited from possessing firearms, ensnaring many Massachusetts residents with minor nonviolent criminal convictions. ATF maintains the position that the determinations of Massachusetts’s Firearms Licensing Review Board are not sufficient to restore an individual’s right to possess firearms under federal law.
Using ATF’s interpretation of federal law as justification, Massachusetts’s Executive Branch refused to process FID cards for those cleared by the Firearms Licensing Review Board, even following a court order demanding that local law enforcement issue the license. According to a report from the Globe, the Baker administration informed local law enforcement that in cases where a court had ordered them to issue a license, they should submit the paperwork to the state, where “officials would refuse to process it.”
According to a February 4 piece in the Boston Globe, Massachusetts’s Executive Branch will now comply with direct court orders to issue an FID card. However, the administration has made clear that their compliance only extends to those cases where a court order has been issued. Therefore, some of the hundreds of individuals who have had their right to an FID card restored by the Firearms Licensing Review Board will still need to appeal to the state courts for a court order demanding that law enforcement issue them an FID.