GOAL Massachusetts

H. 2246 "An Act relative to the expiration of a firearm identification card or gun license"

November 5, 2009

The Honorable Michael A. Costello
The Honorable James E. Timilty
House Chairmen                                                
Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security                                

Dear Chairmen and Members of the Committee,

RE:      H.2246 An Act Relative to the Expiration of a Firearm Identification Card or Gun License


Position:  Gun Owners’ Action League OPPOSES this bill.

Summary: This bill would place severe fines and criminal penalties for the possession of firearms, rifles and shotguns under an expired Firearm Identification Card (FID) or a License to Carry firearms (LTC). It would also mandate that citizens supply photographs of the guns they own when attempting to renew their FID or LTC.

Currently under Massachusetts law, a citizen who is found to be in possession under an expired Firearm Identification Card (FID) or License to Carry (LTC) is exempt from the criminal penalties found in chapter 269 and is only subject to a civil fine.

This exemption has been maintained in good part because of the state’s abysmal record in renewing FIDs and LTCs. In some cases in recent history it has taken over a year to process a renewal even when the law demands that the licensing authority accomplish this task in 40 days.

Chapter 140, Section 129B (3) The licensing authority may not prescribe any other condition for the issuance of a firearm identification card and shall, within 40 days from the date of application, either approve the application and issue the license or deny the application and notify the applicant of the reason for such denial in writing;

Chapter 140, Section 131 (e) The licensing authority shall, within 40 days from the date of application, either approve the application and issue the license or deny the application and notify the applicant of the reason for such denial in writing;

Since the days of Bartley-Fox in 1974, the Commonwealth has not been able to adequately serve the needs of lawful gun owners wishing to renew their licenses. Several times throughout the last decades, GOAL has had to have legislation passed to grant grace periods because of the state’s inability to comply with its own laws in regards to renewing FIDs and LTCs. Shortly after passing the Gun Control Act of 1998 (Chapter 180) the state was so far behind in processing renewals that it used a regulatory authority to temporarily issue a schedule pushing some renewals off for over a year.

   1974 * Chapter 649 provides a 90 day grace period beyond the expiration date of the License to Carry Firearms.

   1976 * Chapter 34 provided the first temporary extension of the grace period on a License to Carry to 170 days beyond its expiration.

   1981 * Chapter 411 was emergency legislation to temporarily extend the grace period for a License to Carry to 180 days.

   2004 * Chapter 150 brought several much needed reforms. These included a review board for misdemeanor offenses, a 6 year License to Carry and Firearms Identification Card, a 90 day grace period, and more.

One very important point that the Committee should be aware of in considering this legislation is the following. According to a July 2002 House Post Audit and Oversight Bureau report there were approximately 1.5 million licensed gun owners in the Commonwealth in 1998. The same report reflects that only four years after the passage of the 1998 Gun Control Act that there were only approximately 200,000 left. Given this enormous disparity, this legislation could be making criminals out of thousands of Massachusetts citizens.

This problem was created by a change in the laws regarding FID cards in 1998. Prior to the Gun Control Act, FID cards (1.2 million) were valid for life once issued. They could be revoked at any time for criminal infractions, but were essentially good for the life of the owner. After the passage of the 1998 law, FID card holders were required to renew the card every four years (now every six years due to the 2004 reform bill). After the law was passed the state did virtually no outreach to card holders notifying them of the new renewal requirement.

To compound the problem, FID cards now cost $100.00 to renew when only a decade ago they were $25.00. Many families with several members having cards are having a hard time finding the funds to renew their cards. As a reminder to the Committee, Massachusetts is the only New England state that requires a license of any kind for rifles and shotguns.  However, the next highest license fees in New England for handguns is $40.00.

For the record:

Rhode Island   (handguns)      $40
Connecticut (handguns)         $35
Maine (handguns)                    $35
New Hampshire (handguns) $10

Because the legislation would also put in place criminal penalties up to one year in jail for an expired FID Card or LTC, a simple infraction for an expired license waiting to be renewed would become a permanent disqualifier for either license.

Chapter 140, Section 129B(ii) (d) a violation of any law regulating the use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed;

Chapter 140, Section 131 (d)(i)(d) a violation of any law regulating the use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed;

The third section of the bill would require all lawful gun owners to supply the licensing authority with photographs of all the rifles, shotguns and handguns they own. What would be the purpose of providing licensing authorities with such photographs? What would they do with such information?

GOAL would urge the Committee to reject this legislation that would make criminals of lawful citizens and release it with an UNFAVORABLE report.

                                                                                                Respectfully,



                                                                                                James L. Wallace
                                                                                                Executive Director

H. 2246 Introduced to House by William Lantigua

Gun Owners’ Action League has received an advance copy of a piece of new legislation that all Massachusetts gun owners should be alerted to. Representative William Lantigua of Lawrence has filed legislation to criminalize the possession of a rifle, shotgun or handgun with an expired license. Currently under Massachusetts law, a citizen who is found to be in possession under an expired Firearm Identification Card (FID) or License to Carry (LTC) is exempt from the criminal penalties found in chapter 269 and is only subject to a civil fine.

This exemption has been maintained in good part because of the state’s abysmal record in renewing FIDs and LTCs. In some cases in recent history it has taken over a year to process a renewal when the law demands that the licensing authority accomplish this task in 40 days. Several times throughout the last decades, GOAL has had to have legislation passed to grant grace periods because of the state’s inability to comply with its own laws in regards to renewing FIDs and LTCs. Shortly after passing the Gun Control Act of 1998 (Chapter 180) the state was so far behind in processing renewals that it used a regulatory authority to temporarily issue a schedule pushing some off for over a year.

  • 1974 * Chapter 649 provides a 90 day grace period beyond the expiration date of the License to Carry Firearms.
  • 1976 * Chapter 34 provided the first temporary extension of the grace period on a License to Carry to 170 days beyond its expiration.
  • 1981 * Chapter 411 was emergency legislation to temporarily extend the grace period for a License to Carry to 180 days.
  • 2004 * Chapter 150 brought several much needed reforms. These included a review board for misdemeanor offenses, a 6 year License to Carry and Firearms Identification Card, a 90 day grace period, and more.

The third section of the bill would require all lawful gun owners to supply the licensing authority with photographs of all the rifles, shotguns and handguns they own.

“The intent of this bill is the complete opposite direction where we need to take this state in regard to respecting citizens rights, said Jim Wallace, Executive Director of GOAL. “It is a clear representation of the social immaturity towards firearms that this state has developed. To force a corrupt and unaccountable licensing system on lawful citizens who wish to exercise their civil rights and then throw them in jail for the government’s failures is simply an inexcusable policy! If a piece of legislation ever exemplified the need for the REAL REFORMS and REAL RESULTS in the Civil Rights and Public Safety Act, this would certainly be one of them.”

This bill currently has no number or official title to date. This will certainly be a piece of legislation that our members will want to keep on their legislative radar. GOAL will alert our members on any movement of this bill.

 

Bill Language

(No title or number has been assigned to date.)

SECTION 1. Section 129B of chapter 140 of the General Laws, as appearing in the 2006 Official Edition, is hereby amended by striking out the words “civil fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000” in lines 224 and 225 and inserting in place thereof the following:- fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 of by imprisonment in a jail for not less than 6 months nor more than 1 year or by both such fine and imprisonment.

SECTION 2. Section 131 of chapter 140 of the General Laws, as so appearing, is hereby amended by striking out the words “civil fine of not less than $500 nor more than $5,000” in lines 308 and 309 and inserting in place thereof the following:- fine of not less than $5,000 nor more than $10,000 of by imprisonment in a jail for not less than 6 months nor more than 1 year or by both such fine and imprisonment.

SECTION 3. Said chapter 140 is hereby further amended by inserting after section 131 the following section:-

Section 131 ¼ . Any application for the renewal of a firearm identification card or a license to carry firearms shall be accompanied by a photograph of the said number of the weapon, or weapons, covered thereunder.

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