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Mass Chiefs Openly Discuss Licensing Abuse

“Liability is only increased by failing to comply with the statutory licensing requirements or exceeding one’s authority regarding how those licenses are issued or regulated.”

In the April 2010 edition of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police newsletter “Inside Information” a three page article was published regarding the abuse of firearm licensing officials. The article was co-authored by Chief Ron Glidden and Attorney Jack Collins. In what is most likely the first time since the passage of the worst in the nation gun laws in 1998, the licensing authorities are calling themselves out.

For decades, GOAL and its members have been educating the legislature and the general public about the abusive firearm licensing practices here in the Commonwealth. At the beginning of 2009 GOAL launched an intensified education program through the MassGunLawReform.com campaign. Through our public forums, seminars and legislative efforts the truth about Massachusetts gun laws has been made public. From what was printed in the Mass Chiefs’ article, the campaign has been a success. Finally even the chiefs are publicly talking about the abuses inherent in the system.

In the opening paragraphs of the article the authors reference GOAL’s reform bill H.2259. They state clearly that legislators supporting the bill: “…pointed out what they believe is an inherent unfairness in the way licenses in some communities are issued, and feel that a few chiefs routinely exceed their authority in their role as licensing authority.”

The article relates how as a result of the mounting pressure and the exposure of the truth, a meeting of several members of the Association met to discuss the issues. “As a result of that meeting, the Association will propose language to counter H.2259 that will improve standardization, simplify licensing and maintain a chief’s discretion.”

What is interesting is that while the article publicly admits to the abuses that citizens have had to endure, the Association still believes that the chiefs should maintain their discretionary authority. It is unfortunate that the Association has determined that they should offer other language to “counter” the reform bill. What are GOAL members and the general public supposed to take from this political posture – We admit our members have abused their authority and the citizens of the Commonwealth for decades, but you can trust us now we’ll do better. Why is anyone supposed to believe that?

The message has been heard around the state and in the legislature and GOAL members should be proud of their efforts in bringing this educational campaign to where it is. GOAL’s Civil Rights and Public Safety bill should be on a fast track to becoming law in light of this admission of guilt from the Chief’s Association. We would urge all of our members to go online at www.masschiefs.org and download a copy of this article and share it with your legislators along with a letter urging them to move on H.2259.

For those who do not have the ability to download the article, below are some of the quotes taken directly from it.

“Unsuitability should be determined by past behavior, preferably that has been documented.”

“Suitability should be determined on a case-by-case basis and not by a blanket policy.”

“Suitability SHOULD NOT be determined by an applicant meeting or failing to meet a condition not required by statute but imposed by the local licensing authority.”

“Additional conditions for an FID Card are statutorily prohibited. Such conditions are not specifically prohibited for an LTC because such prohibition might interfere with a chief’s discretion on suitability. However the absence of statutory language prohibiting conditions should not be seen as an open invitation to impose unlimited conditions.”

“It should be noted that imposing additional conditions on LTC applicants is one of the biggest causes for citizen’s complaints, and an argument legislators frequently use when discussing removing a chief’s discretion.”

“Additional conditions which should NOT be imposed by a licensing authority include but are not limited to:

  • Obtain notarized reference letters.
  • Obtain a letter from a doctor.
  • List the firearms owned or that the applicant intends to own.
  • Complete a special firearms training course (separate from state requirement.
  • Complete a state required Basic Firearms Safety (BFS) course only by a particular PD.
  • Complete a state required BFS course only from a particular instructor.
  • Complete a qualification course that is not part of a state approved BFS course.
  • Join a sportsman’s or gun club. 

“Chiefs should not issue a Class B LTC as a trial or beginner license. Do not tell the person he will be issued a Class B LTC and then have him come back in a year or when he is older to obtain a Class A (for an additional $100). 

“It should be noted that many chiefs have needlessly caused themselves considerable headaches and political problems over this issue.” 

“Since 1994 we have observed several chiefs leave their jobs partially and in some cases specifically because to their licensing practices. In some cases those chiefs were replaced by people whose views were 180 degrees different and those communities started issuing unrestricted licenses. Some chiefs who made that change look back and wonder what all the fuss was about. No change in gun crimes, and no wild west. Nothing changed except those licensing officials have fewer headaches because they chose not to fight that particular battle.”

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