Did Violation of Massachusetts’ Gun Storage Law Save Man from Pit Bull Attack?

Did Violation of Massachusetts' Gun Storage Law Save Man from Pit Bull Attack?
Did Violation of Massachusetts' Gun Storage Law Save Man from Pit Bull Attack?

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- – On the 2nd of December, 2018, a 25-year-old man was at home with his girlfriend and a pit bull dog they were fostering. All of them were lying on a bed at about 6 p.m. The dog attacked the man. The man attempted to move the pit bull off of the bed. Instead, the dog bit the man on the left arm, and would not let go. From bostonglobe.com:

In a desperate attempt to end the attack, the man reached for a 9mm handgun he had in his nightstand and shot the dog, police said.

“The single shot stopped the attack and the dog died shortly afterwards,” police said in the statement. “The man is fully licensed to have firearms in Massachusetts.”

The man was rushed to Cape Cod Hospital to be treated for his injuries, police said.

Police took the man’s handgun, a 12-gauge shotgun, and ammunition found in the home “for safekeeping.” The dead pit bull was taken away by Yarmouth animal control officers, police said.

It is unknown if the legal gun owner will be charged in the case.

Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that still requires all firearms in a home to be locked up when not in use.

On March 10, 2010, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled the “safe storage” law did not violate the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  From masslive.com:

BOSTON – The highest court in Massachusetts on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of a state law that requires gun owners to lock weapons in their homes, a case closely watched by both gun-control and gun-rights proponents. 

Massachusetts prosecutors argued that the law saves lives because it requires guns to be kept in a locked container or equipped with a trigger lock when not under the owner’s control. The Gun Owners’ Action League and the Second Amendment Foundation Inc., however, pointed to a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said people have a constitutional right to keep weapons for self-defense. 

The state Supreme Judicial Court, ruling in the case of a man charged with improperly storing a hunting rifle in his Billerica home, unanimously agreed that the Second Amendment does not overrule the state’s right to require owners to store guns safely.

The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling was based on two premises.

First, that the Second Amendment only applied to the federal government, not to the states. At the time, the McDonald case had been heard, but the U.S. Supreme Court did not deliver its opinion until July of 2010, two months later.

Second, the law in Massachusetts allows a person to have a firearm unlocked and loaded in the home when it is carried by them or “under their control”.  From the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling:

Under this provision, an individual with a valid firearms identification card issued under G. L. c. 140, § 129C, is not obliged to secure or render inoperable a firearm while the individual carries it or while it remains otherwise under the individual's control. A gun owner may therefore carry or keep a loaded firearm under his or her control in his or her home without securing it with a trigger lock or comparable safety device. The gun owner's obligation to secure the firearm in accordance with the statute arises only when the firearm is stored or otherwise outside the owner's immediate control.[6]

Exactly what is meant by “the owner's immediate control”? Does the law mean a person may not leave an unlocked shotgun in their bedroom, while they are in another room of the house? It seems to mean a person who is not licensed, even if they are the gun owners spouse, parent, or child, is not allowed to have access to any of their firearms when they are not present.

The 9mm by the bed was arguably “under the control” of the licensed firearm owner. But what about the shotgun? Perhaps the shotgun was locked up. We do not know.

The U.S. Supreme Court has not heard a gun storage case since Heller, in 2008. No other state has a gun storage law as restrictive as Massachusetts. But San Francisco and other California cities have stricter gun storage laws dating from 2007 and later.

The Ninth Circuit upheld the San Francisco law.  In the Ninth Circuit ruling a judge said that modern safes and gun locks can be opened so quickly as to not interfere with the right to self defense in the home. From sfgate.com:

Because trigger locks and modern gun safes can be opened quickly, a stored or locked handgun “may be readily accessed in case of an emergency,” Judge Sandra Ikuta said in the appeals court’s ruling.

The Ninth Circuit judge said the law serves a government function of reducing gun related injuries and deaths resulting from an unlocked handgun in the home.

The academic literature is mixed on the subject. Research by John Lott and John Whitley concluded the law had a net negative effect. From crime research.org:

It is frequently assumed that safe-storage gun laws reduce accidental gun deaths and total suicides, while the possible impact on crime rates is ignored. We find no support that safe-storage laws reduce either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides. Instead, these storage requirements appear to impair people’s ability to use guns defensively. Because accidental shooters also tend to be the ones most likely to violate the new law, safe-storage laws increase violent and property crimes against law-abiding citizens with no observable offsetting benefit in terms of reduced accidents or suicides.

Self defense in the home with handguns was ruled to be part of the core of Second Amendment rights, by the Supreme Court in Heller.  Infringement of that right should have been examined under strict scrutiny. Interest balancing was expressly forbidden in this context, by the Heller decision. From Heller:

“We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding “interest-balancing’ approach. The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government – even the Third Branch of Government – the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon. A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges’ assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad.

The Supreme Court did not accept the Ninth Circuit case about the San Francisco storage requirement.

It is unknown if the pit-bull victim will be charged with a crime or if he will have difficulty in retrieving his firearms from the police.

A Supreme Court with Justices Kavanaugh and Gorsuch may be more willing to accept Second Amendment cases.

We should find out in the next few months.  The Court normally recesses in June. The decision to accept, or not accept, a Second Amendment case this term will be made long before then.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

  • 40 thoughts on “Did Violation of Massachusetts’ Gun Storage Law Save Man from Pit Bull Attack?

    1. Author: Heed the Call-up
      Comment:
      TGWD, most pit bulls you have met don’t CC or OC? Are you as insane as Ron? Your statement means you have met pit bulls that have CC or OC, which, if true, also calls in to question why you would only carry an “air pistol”.

      You are an ASS HOLE. Not much more to say.

      1. Ron, no, that appears to be your job. I don’t take work from the less fortunate. Now, if you have anything worthwhile to say, please post it.

    2. Just as an off side..so to speak. As I grew up…A German Shepard was considered one heck of an evil dog to own.
      We (my Parents) had two. Loved the Hell outta them. Then, Dobermans were the bad ones.I had two (red) both of them. (arthritis took them down)
      Forgive my bad words but…..they were God dam’nd spoiled baby’s!!!! (Dobies) Loved em and won’t get another. Jealous they were!!!. Now it’s Rottweilers..Pits, it’ll go on. I believe it has a ‘whole lot’ to do with how, they are brought up.
      I guess it’s up to what one wants…a guard dog, or a ‘friend’. Or both. It’s up to the individual.
      It could avoid what happened here. And NO!!!! I ain’t no Petis lover.

    3. Some things just can’t change.
      I just hope Tionico has the ‘common sense ‘ to sort things out. Some (I wonder who) just refuse to …..Prove me wrong about the law in Jersey and quit screwing with the guy’s mind. Good Lord, you still continue to act like an A– Hole.

      Tionico, just check it out. Believe who or what ya want.

      1. Ron, so you refuse to rebut my facts. I understand, since you chose the low road and I provided facts. Reality, again, but you in the a—.

    4. Author: Heed the Call-up
      Comment:
      Ron, true, you are “allowed” to transport and use hollow point ammo at a range or hunting. The rest of us understood Tionico’s point. (WHICH WAS?)

      I think you should reread his post. In it he stated it is a felony to even posses HP’s (simply not true) Each round worth a felony count. Not if you use and transport them legally.
      I sure don’t know what you understood.(or the rest) But that is the law. If he doesn’t know it, and ignores it , he could very well end up in the slammer. Then again,if doesn’t own any. No problem.
      But if he wants to posses them he can. He has a thing or two that could be addressed also, but you understood them.
      Tonico, if you reside in Jersey….research the laws. A forum sure isn’t the place to put your future in jeopardy.
      Not by me or ‘anybody’ else. No offense meant to you.

    5. Know your local laws, also know when to remain quiet and not broadcast that you have broken them. Such as, choose one; “I grabbed the gun off of the night stand and shot the dog as he hung on my arm”… or ” I used the digital combination to open my California complaint gun safe, then used my pass key to open the drawer with my ammo. I then loaded my 10-shot magazine by holding the gun in my teeth and jamming the mag in with my free non-bleeding arm and hand. After the dog began to die I immediately emptied the magazine, returned the gun to my locked gun safe stored the ammo in the locked drawer. I then began to apply a tourniquet to my mangled arm but died in the process.

      1. In 1954 Puerto Rican nationalists shot up the House of Representatives. If I remember the official report properly a motion to adjourn was made, seconded, and unanimously passed, and the members evacuated the Hall in a rapid but orderly manner, stopping to aid the injured, in about 30 seconds.
        You could officially load and use a gun to defend yourself in a short time, at least officially.

    6. The young man will almost certainly e able to get off if charged on a necessity knows no law defense. This raises the question, if charges for violating a law are regularly beat on NKNL grounds, is it really a law?

    7. I always wonder what the Founding Fathers would think of what has happened to their 13 colonies. They are so far removed from the Constitution, I want to barf.

    8. Oh, I am sure everyone has a key in his hand ready to unlock his gun when a pit bull is trying to eat the arm he might be using to unlock said apparatus, right????????????????????????

    9. Locked up unless “In use”. While at home, my firearms are “in use” as I intend to use them: staged in preparation for self defense.

    10. After watching a pitbull type dog attack my 5 year old daughter a few years ago, i will not hesitate to drop the next one if it acts threatening in any way. You need to have your head examined if you keep dogs like these in residential areas. Talk about a walking liability. “Safe storage” laws ensure the death and injury of the law abiding, rendering them defenseless.

      1. Randy,
        Don’t forget forks make people fat too. Even if they are just sitting there minding their own business. And pencils misspell Yep!

    11. According to Green Watchdog, we should ground all aircraft. One could crash into a house and hurt somebody. While you’re juggling your three non lethal semi weapons, similar to a clown juggling various objects for sheer amusement, I’ll be doing what Joe recommends. I use hollow points. They don’t “bounce” so much. You can’t worry about being arrested when your safety or that of others is in immediate jeopardy.

      “It’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six”
      -author unknown

      1. Just make certain you stay in Idaho when you use those hollow points, Randy. Especialy avoid New Jersey… for we mundanes to possess thost murderous HP rounds is a felony.. one count for EACH ROUND POSSESSED. The ONLY factoid I know if that supports smaller capacity magazines. Fewer eflony counts ahen discovered.

        But no worries, unless you are a resident of New Jersey, you will not be in possession of any handguns, because to do so in NJ, one MUST have the coveted and scarce FOID card….. VERY difficult to get if a resident, takes six months or so and endless hoop jumping, and NEVER issued to non-residents.

        1. Tonico,Hollow points are not illegal in NJ. One can own (posses) hollow points. You can take them to the range to shoot but you have to box em up (locked) like all other ammo. But, if you should be so unfortunate
          to have one fall out and be rolling around your trunk floor or wherever at a traffic stop…. That loose round is a felony. Thought ya might want to know.

          1. Ron, true, you are “allowed” to transport and use hollow point ammo at a range or hunting. The rest of us understood Tionico’s point. We were discussing self-defense, not hunting.

            You can’t use HP in a handgun and carry on your person as you can in every other state. One reason for HP is that it is safer to have the bullet stop inside the perp than travel thru and hit someone else – even the police have understand that. Police departments use HP for that same reason – as does NJ police, but for everyone else in the state, even possession of the round outside of the firearm is illegal – except for hunting/range use – effectively banned.

    12. A sad thing-both because I abhors the current state of my former state,and because I love dogs. Has a few PBTs over the years and wouldn’t change a thing.
      Still,the man did what was necessary and I am of no mind to fault him.
      The whole idea that ANY interaction with the PD results in your arms confiscated for ” safe keeping” is an affront even before we get to the abortion known as the Massachusetts General Law Chapter 180.

    13. The lesson here is unless there is a dead body, NEVER call the cops. Never let them in your house. Never speak to them without a lawyer present.

    14. Kavanaugh just declined to hear a case in which Planned Parenthood happened to be peripherally involved. I hope that this isn’t an indication of future decisions.

    15. Addressing only dog attacks: I carry mace, a bay-ton, and an air pistol when walking my dogs in any residential neighborhood. Even if one has a permit to carry, I do not recommend carrying a weapon that shoots any type of caliper ammunition as the bullet may bounce off the pavement and could injure or kill someone. In addition, when law enforcement responds to shots fired, then you are more likely not to be arrested.

      1. I carry a 9mm shield when out walking a dog or not. If attacked by another “dog” it will be SHOT not sprayed. and it’s caliBer not caliPer.As far as being arrested I’ll take those chances rather than being harmed by an attacker.

        1. Yes, you the option and right to carry whatever means of protection you feel safe with. So long that it is within the laws which you reside. Mine the same. If I want to go it alone unarmed with a dog bone in hand, then the Pit Bull gets a treat and will be happy to see me next time around.

      2. TGWD, depending on where you live, carrying even a airsoft or other type weapon is also illegal. Secondly, many people have been shot by police while carrying those type weapons. The police see a gun and shoot. They can’t determine until after the shooting what type of gun it was. Interestingly, you believe that while out walking your dogs at night, that you will not be a victim of a crime. Shootings go both ways, a perp could shoot your dogs first, then all you have to defend yourself with is an “air pistol”, and a bay-ton, whatever that is. Lastly, airsoft projectiles bounce off pavement, too, and can injure someone, probably not kill, but can easily penetrate the eye, which is why people that play airsoft games wear eye protection.

        1. I conferred with law enforcement on the best course of action. Most Pit Bulls I have come across do not have a concealed or open carry.

          1. TGWD, most pit bulls you have met don’t CC or OC? Are you as insane as Ron? Your statement means you have met pit bulls that have CC or OC, which, if true, also calls in to question why you would only carry an “air pistol”.

        1. @m. TGWD sucks them too. Ooops! Not PC. He sucks them too!!! He’s as pink as a commie can get. Do not answer or reply to him. A died in red & yellow MARXIST. His brains have been hammered by marxist ideology. He’s just waiting for someone to lop his (empty) head off with a sickle and a gathering for which he’s sheepishly paid and funded.

          @WB: Concerning the Greennosedbitch …it needs repeating. I thought socio-communists go to utopia.

      3. @The Free Lunch Dog, I don’t respond to propagandists like yourself because it gets you paid, but because you imply that you give some dogs a home, I will get you paid, just this once. First, What makes you an authority that anyone should listen to you? Second, the fact patterns that you proffer, have no relevance to most of us, and therefore can not form the basis of a general pattern of conduct or canon. Third, what is a “… type of caliper ammunition…”? Fourth, no cause of action lies if one is not arrested. Finally, No matter how you try to make yourself sound reasonable, we know that you are a gun banning, anti-Constitutionalist, socialist democrat.
        Merry Christmas Patriots and a Happy New Rifle. ( as to Anti-Constitutional Rights, socialist democrats … well … that is what hell is for.)

      4. This Green watch dog, is GREEN about any knowledge of firearms!
        Calipers! REALLY!
        All his stupidity is due to his Socialistic DemoTARD Leftist Pinko Commie EdumaKatio!
        He’s a milk-sop! Indecisive and has no COURAGE!
        He/she would likely wet themselves if confronted by a toy poodle, much ales a pit bull!

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