Northboro, MA – -(Ammoland.com)- December 2, 2013 Update, this story became larger news – see Gun Owners' Action League Executive Director Jim Wallace discussing the issue here on Fox 25 TV Boston below.
- Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston
- Fox News National coverage of the story on their website.
- State of Massachusetts Abusing Citizens – Link to original story which appeared on www.freebeacon.com – written by Mary Lou Byrd.
Read below for additional information on the state of Massachusetts abusing citizens who attempt to follow the law.
15 years of failure, lack of planning and inaction are beginning to take a toll.
Over the course of the last 18 + months the phone lines, e-mails and mailman have continued to bring news to the GOAL office of delay after delay affecting gun owners who try to follow the law by applying for a license to lawfully own firearms in Massachusetts.
This license is known as an LTC (License to Carry) or an FID (Firearms Identification Card). For those that don’t know it is illegal to possess a firearm in Massachusetts without one of the two and the LTC “A” license is needed to lawfully carry a concealed handgun in MA.
Gun Owners' Action League, on behalf of our membership has made numerous requests for answers as to why the state of Massachusetts cannot process these firearms license applications in a timely manner.
During the same time period we have also offered many common sense solutions which have been ignored by the MA legislature.
The issue at stake, in regard to delays of the processing of the LTC/FID license has long been an issue in MA. As far back as 1974 GOAL filed legislation to grant licensed gun owners a grace period due to application problems. The same happened in 1976 and again in 2004. In 2004 the wait got as long as 12 months.
In the past the majority of delays were occurring at the local level, whether on purpose, or for other reasons, many citizens waited weeks, months, and sometimes over a year for their applications to be processed. These local delays were typically taking place in select cities and towns. GOAL received many phone calls from citizens who lived in these towns who were subject to these delays, the cause of which was a local licensing authority who didn’t want his/her citizens carrying or owning firearms.
Massachusetts is unique and broken in that each of the 351 cities and town within the Commonwealth are the licensing authority for that city/town.
The Chief of Police or licensing officer of these select towns would procrastinate, delay, refuse to grant appointments, refuse to answer questions, refuse to answer phone calls. Many never returned messages; many would be downright rude to anyone who dared ask the status of their application.
Some cities and towns would literally let applications pile up on a desk somewhere until they sent them in for processing. A six month turnaround time was not unusual, sometimes even longer, stretching into a year or more for some people. Remember also, the applicants waiting through this process had already completed a mandatory training course at an average cost of $100.00, paid an application fee of $100.00 and many had waited for weeks or even months just for an appointment to apply and begin the process of abuse and waiting!
These problems began to surface again in 2007, GOAL began the investigation immediately and formally requested that Governor Patrick look into the cause of these delays.
The Governor did not reply directly, instead GOAL received a response from General Counsel Gregory L Massing. Here is the reply:
October 29, 2007
Mr. James Wallace
Gun Owners' Action League
37 Pierce St.
P.O. Box 567
Northboro, MA 01532
Dear Mr. Wallace:
Your letter to Governor Patrick concerning some of your members issues with the state’s firearms licensing system has been referred to me for response.
As GOAL and its members are aware, applications for firearm identification cards and licenses to carry, including license renewals, have markedly increased in 2007- This increase in licensing activity is reflected in statistics collected by the Massachusetts Criminal History Systems Board (CHSB) relative t0 applications processed via the Massachusetts Instant Record Check System. For instance, in June 2006 there were 4,217licenses submitted to CHSB, whereas, in June 2007 there were 7,727 licenses submitted, over an 80% increase.
Despite the significant increase in the number of license applications being processed by the local licensing authorities in 2007, the vast majority of licensing authorities are timely processing the applications. Of the 1913 license applications the CHSB received from local licensing authorities for processing from September 3 to September 7, 2007, for example, only 48 (2.5%)were outside the 40-day statutory timeframe for processing an application.
While CHSB has been working and continues to work with the local police departments to make sure they comply with the 40 day timeframe, CHSB is handling its piece of the transaction in a timely manner. Average processing time for CHSB between July 2006 and August 2007 was under 5 days.
We understand the frustration of GOAL members dealing with their local police departments in instances in which licensees have been unsuccessful in their attempts to timely renew their licenses. Barry Lacroix, Executive Director of the Criminal History Systems Board, can be reached at (617) 660-4600, and would be happy to assist any license holders who are concerned about the possibility of their becoming in violation of the Commonwealth's firearms laws for no fault of their own.
Gregory L Massing
The reply indicated that the CHSB wasn’t the source of the delays. The state, with full knowledge that many Police Chiefs were willfully breaking the law by failing to issue the licenses in the mandated 40 days refused to offer any remedy. Residents who were unlucky enough to live in one of the towns under control of these Chiefs were given no help.
Simply put the state didn’t care.
Fast forward 5 years and many of these cities and towns continue in their obfuscation of our Right to Keep and Bear Arms. The problem has only deepened in that we now have documentation from many people who are residents of “green towns” and now they are also running into delays. As of today everything indicates that the cause of these delays isn’t occurring at the local level, they are occurring at the state level.
GOAL began the process of investigation into the state caused delays in 2012 when the level of complaints reaching our office grew by the week. In September of 2012 we made a formal request to Attorney General Martha Coakley to investigate the cause of the delays.
Here is the letter we sent to her on that date:
September 4, 2012
Attorney General Martha Coakley
One Ashburton Place, 20th Floor
Boston, MA 02108
RE: Massachusetts Firearm Licensing System
Dear Attorney General Coakley,
I am writing to you today to request that your office conduct an investigation into the lengthy delays within the Massachusetts firearm licensing system. Over the past several months Gun Owners' Action League (GOAL) has been repeatedly contacted by lawful gun owners from across the state that have become more than frustrated with the system. Other than the complaints of being unfairly denied or having their license restricted for no reason, the overwhelming complaint now has been the length of time it takes to process a license application.
According to Massachusetts General Laws, specifically Section 129B and 131 of Chapter 140, there are very specific timelines that the licensing process is to be held to. Primarily any license or renewal of the same shall not take longer than forty days to process. The following are just a few examples of time complaints:
- Tewksbury resident had to wait over 100 days;
- Weymouth nearly 17 weeks;
- Belchertown nearly 5 months;
- Mendon, applied for an LTC in February and did not receive it until July;
- Beverly, got fingerprinted and paid the fee in late June and still no response;
- Fall River, took almost three months, 3 letters of reference and mandatory club membership;
- Boston, after my initial mandatory interview in May was made to wait until August for a range test;
- Fitchburg, it has been 11 weeks and the local department does not respond to inquiries about license status;
- Tyngsboro, 73 days from application to license;
- North Andover, ten weeks
- Worcester, 6 months
- Springfield, 3 months
- Pittsfield, 119 days;
- Wilbraham, 10 weeks;
- Lowell, 4 months;
- Waltham, 3 months;
And the list goes on.
Please note that citizens have asked us not release their names for fear of reprisal from licensing officials. Since Licenses to Carry can be revoked or restricted for little or no reason, citizens rightly feel that if they complain about the lack of service the local authority will revoke their license.
One of the major problems within the system is the complete lack of any means to track the progress of one’s application, new or renewal. Massachusetts citizens pay an exorbitant fee to exercise their Second Amendment civil rights, more than double of any other New England state, yet the licensing system in the Commonwealth is horribly inefficient and not user friendly. For example, if a citizen files an application to the local licensing authority as outlined in the system they often have to wait weeks if not months for an appointment to do so. If they are able to get an appointment, the fingerprints are taken and the fee is collected and it is at this point where many citizens are left waiting with no answers. When citizens inquire as to the progress of their application, many cities and towns ask them not to call anymore and that the authority will contact them when it is completed. If an applicant calls the state Firearms Record Bureau to check on the status, the state will not have any record of the application if it has not been forwarded to them. In many cases this situation will only further frustrate the applicant as the town will blame the state and the state will in turn say they have no record or they have already returned it to the town.
Perhaps the irony of this entire problem is that one would think that if a state is so concerned with the licensing and tracking of its citizens, that the state would have an efficient system in place to conduct that practice. Of course in the minds of many of our members is that the system is specifically made to be frustrating as to discourage them from exercising their civil rights.
Whatever may be the case, on behalf of GOAL I would like to request that your office conduct an investigation into the constant illegal delays and lack of efficiency of the system in general. I look forward to a resolution of the matter and if I can be of any assistance at all in the matter please do not hesitate to contact me.
James L. Wallace
Attorney General Coakley never replied to the formal request and never returned any messages asking for information about the request. Once again, the state didn’t care.
Months passed with no word from A.G. Coakley, finally in December of 2012 Representative George Peterson and Senator Richard Moore filed emergency legislation on behalf of GOAL. This legislation, “An Act Relative to the Term of Firearm Licenses” would have gotten rid of the renewal process altogether in that it would have made any LTC or FID card valid for life.
At the time of filing House Speaker Robert DeLeo agreed to help us look into the matter and requested that our members e-mail his aide with documentation of the delays. A flood of communications arrived at the Speaker’s office from across the state and days later good news followed.
Just over a week later in mid December of 2012 the House voted to send GOAL's licensing renewal bill, HD.4613 to the Committee on Public Safety. Unfortunately two things followed in somewhat rapid succession, the Senate received the bill and the Newtown murders. The Senate immediately tabled the bill in reaction effectively stopping the legislation in its tracks.
Once again Massachusetts gun owners were left in limbo.
As the winter of grief and shock turned to spring the talk at the State House turned into “we must do something”. Except the something they wanted to enact was more regulation and restriction, not solving the problems of 15+ years of dysfunction.
GOAL continued to work towards a solution asking for documentation from our membership outlining individual experiences of the LTC/FID licensing process, and more specifically the amount of time the process was taking. The GOAL survey generated more replies than we could have imagined, the replies coming from all over the state all of them outlining what we already knew. The system is broken.
In late May of 2013 State Senator Michael Knapik filed a budget amendment calling for the state Inspector General to look into the license delays. The amendment also asked for oversight of the licensing system and asked for the authority to address those issues. Unfortunately the majority of the Senate did not agree with him and voted the amendment down.
Once again we were left in limbo.
So, here we are many months later, the phone calls, e-mails and letters complaining about the delays have continued to increase. The majority of Massachusetts state legislators continue enabling the abuse and continue to disrespect the law abiding. We are still in limbo, still being abused, still being disrespected.
Where do we go from here? For one thing we currently have legislation in play which would address this issue, Senate bill S.1161 filed by Senator Richard Moore on behalf of GOAL. Among other things, this legislation, if passed, will refund the full amount of the licensing fee to the applicant should the license not be issued in 40 days. It would also keep any license valid until such time as the state issues the new license.
We also have H.3272 filed by Representative George Peterson. This bill would make an LTC or FID valid for life unless it is revoked or suspended.
These bills are currently awaiting a vote from the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. We are hoping to hear from the committee soon, as our readers know the last of 5 public hearings about these bills concluded over a month ago.
Clearly the legislative process is yet to produce positive results. GOAL would like to remind our readers that the majority of the country continues to pass laws which make it easier for law abiding citizens to purchase, possess and carry firearms. The same majority of states are also enjoying a decade by decade decline in violent crime, exactly the opposite of what we are experiencing in Massachusetts.
We would also like to remind our readers that many states do not require a license of any kind to purchase a firearm. Our neighbors to the north Vermont and New Hampshire are great examples of this. Vermont has no license whatsoever. A Vermont resident can purchase a firearm at an FFL by passing the NICS check and walk out the door carrying concealed. New Hampshire residents enjoy almost as much freedom except they have to get a license to carry concealed. They can open carry with no license and no repercussions.
Listening to the anti Second Amendment speeches given at the 5 public hearings this past summer one would think that states live VT and NH would have high murder rates and the proverbial “blood on the streets”. Quite the opposite, both states enjoy lower violent crime rates than MA. As a matter of fact MA has the most restrictive gun laws of all New England states and the highest violent crime rate.
With this in mind we have to ask, why doesn’t MA follow suit and simply do away with the LTC/FID altogether? Clearly there is no increase in public safety accompanying the passing of draconian gun laws; as a matter of fact the opposite is true. Fifteen years has passed since Chapter 180 became law. During this time Massachusetts has seen violent crime increase by almost 200%. We have documented abuse after abuse of law abiding gun owners who have been caught in the net of the ridiculously hard to understand laws, and worst of all we have seen a state mandated licensing system fail time after time.
The state has refused to address the issues for 15 years, the problems have continued to grow and the bureaucracy has grown along with it.
We deserve better and we ask that you help us reform the current status quo. Please urge your friends, family and neighbors to join us in our mission to enact a tectonic shift here in Massachusetts.
It’s time to stop the abuse.
Gun Owners’ Action League is the official state firearms association in Massachusetts. We are an association of law-abiding citizens who believe in the basic right of firearms ownership for competition, recreation and self-protection. GOAL works hard to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights against those in Massachusetts who wish to infringe upon the freedoms guaranteed by our forefathers. The programs sponsored and developed by Gun Owners’ Action League are supported by competitors, sportsmen, recreational shooters and law enforcement throughout the state. We were formed in 1974 to protect the right to keep and bear arms for lawful purposes in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We are recognized as the state’s premier gun rights association. www.goal.org