GOAL’s Right to Carry Bill
Another piece of legislation that GOAL is trying to push this legislative session is our Right to Carry bill. H.1567 An Act Relative to the Right to Carry Firearms filed by Rep. George Peterson. This relatively small piece of legislation seeks to completely rewrite Section 131 of Chapter 140. Section 131 is the section of law that deals with the resident License to Carry (LTC).
Massachusetts gun owners know all too well about the abuses of the LTC application and issuing process around the Commonwealth. Many of these problems have been outlined on the “Facts” page at www.MassGunLawReform.com. With these abuses so well documented, it is well past time for some meaningful reform of this section of law.
The bill would amend Section 131 to do the following:
Makes it shall issue – The so-called authority for local licensing officials to virtually make up their own rules when it comes to issuing an LTC has been a long standing problem. These officials are given “discretion” authority by the state in a supposed attempt to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. This discretion has been obscenely abused by many licensing authorities in a simple effort to keep lawful citizens from obtaining a license.
All lawful purposes – Part of the existing section of law has been interpreted by the courts as allowing officials to issue licenses for whatever purpose they deem appropriate. In many cases that has meant placing arbitrary restrictions on citizens’ right to carry. In nearly every case those restrictions are not defined or clarified leaving the license holder in a quandary about what they can and can’t do with a firearm. Another problem is that other officers may interpret the restrictions differently. GOAL’s proposal would undo this and make every LTC issued good for all lawful purposes.
Eliminates “Classes” of a License to Carry – Massachusetts law has been interpreted by many to allow the local officials to issue either a Class A or B regardless of the class actually applied for. The greatest difference in the classes is the ability to “carry” a firearm or own a large capacity firearm, both are prohibited under a class B. The different classes often cause further confusion about the restrictions placed on a citizen. GOAL’s bill would simply make one category of LTC
Reforms the Judicial Review Process – Under the current system, the courts have ruled for several decades that the burden of proving ourselves to be “suitable” was upon the citizen if we were denied an LTC. This view is the complete opposite of entire system of justice being that we are always supposed to be innocent unless the government proves us guilty. GOAL’s language would ensure that the courts and the licensing officials understand this basic Constitutional mainstay. Our bill would force the government to make its case against us by a “finding of the facts”.
Another problem is that even when citizens have won their case before a court the authorities still refuse to issue. This bill would hold them in contempt of court if they did so. The language would also prevent the local officials from appealing if they lost. This tactic is used by some officials to wear out the applicant in hopes they run out of resources to continue the case.
Adds Penalties for Failing to Issue – As in many instances in law, government is mandated to do certain things, but there are seldom any penalties for those officials who do not comply. GOAL’s proposal would provide stiff penalties to those who fail to issue an LTC in accordance with the law. Government officials need to keep in mind that the Second Amendment is a civil right, not a privilege. Citizens of this country should never have to have a license to exercise any right. However, the requirement still exists for the citizens of Massachusetts and as a result we should hold government accountable when it unlawfully stands in our way of obtaining a license.
Establishes “Prohibited Person” – One of the most difficult “gray areas” that exists in the current Massachusetts gun laws is who is “eligible” to receive an LTC. Since the courts and the legislature have given authorities virtually endless discriminatory powers there are no set rules. Of course the main problem with this part of the system is that it shouldn’t be who is “eligible”, but rather who isn’t. Getting back to our system of justice again, it is supposed to be people who are not eligible to exercise a civil right that should be the topic of law. In GOAL’s language we intend to set a standard of a prohibited person. While we are sure there will be some great debates as to what that standard should be, it will do away with the gray areas and clearly outline who should NOT be able to exercise this particular civil right.
GOAL urges all of our members to contact their state legislators and ask them to support H.1567 An Act Relative to the Right to Carry Firearms.
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GOAL is the Official State Association of the National Rifle Association