Some Semblance of Law Returns to the Woeful Massachusetts Firearms Licensing


Law and Order Gun Gavel Court
Some Semblance of Law Returns to the Woeful Massachusetts Firearms Licensing

Massachusetts – -( In early December, NRA-ILA alerted gun owners to an ongoing dispute between the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and the state courts. The governor’s office had advised that it would refuse to comply with lawful court orders to reinstate some Massachusetts residents’ Firearms Identification Cards. Early this week, the Boston Globe reported that the Governor’s office had reversed course and will comply with the court orders, returning Massachusetts to some semblance of a Republican form of government.

As NRA-ILA previously noted, in Massachusetts, all prospective firearms owners are required to obtain a Firearms Identification card. Even licenses for the possession of a shotgun or rifle are effectively may-issue, with local law enforcement having significant discretion on who may or may not possess a firearm.

Under Massachusetts state law, a person denied a FID card as the result of a conviction for certain misdemeanor offenses punishable by up to two and a half years in prison are eligible to appeal the denial to the state Firearms Licensing Review Board. This is an important protection for Massachusetts residents, as many nonviolent misdemeanors in the state are punishable by up to two and a half years imprisonment, including a first offense for operating under the influence.

Under federal law, a person who is convicted of a state misdemeanor punishable by more than two years in prison is prohibited from possessing firearms, ensnaring many Massachusetts residents with minor nonviolent criminal convictions. ATF maintains the position that the determinations of Massachusetts’s Firearms Licensing Review Board are not sufficient to restore an individual’s right to possess firearms under federal law.

Using ATF’s interpretation of federal law as justification, Massachusetts’s Executive Branch refused to process FID cards for those cleared by the Firearms Licensing Review Board, even following a court order demanding that local law enforcement issue the license. According to a report from the Globe, the Baker administration informed local law enforcement that in cases where a court had ordered them to issue a license, they should submit the paperwork to the state, where “officials would refuse to process it.”

According to a February 4 piece in the Boston Globe, Massachusetts’s Executive Branch will now comply with direct court orders to issue an FID card. However, the administration has made clear that their compliance only extends to those cases where a court order has been issued. Therefore, some of the hundreds of individuals who have had their right to an FID card restored by the Firearms Licensing Review Board will still need to appeal to the state courts for a court order demanding that law enforcement issue them an FID.

While a minor improvement, the new policy still needlessly encumbers prospective gun owners who have already undergone an onerous vetting process to regain their rights. Attorney Jason A. Guida, who has represented several prospective gun owners in the appeals process, told the Globe, “It’s a waste of time; it’s a waste of resources… Both individual license holders and local police departments are still being forced to go to court at their expense and litigate these issues, knowing full well that not a single judge has ruled in support of this administration’s decision.”

Moreover, the overall woeful state of the administration of Massachusetts’s firearms licensing policy was recently brought into stark relief in the court case Phipps v. Police Commissioner of Boston, involving a small business owner’s lengthy attempt to vindicate his rights.

In 2013, Richard Phipps of Boston applied for a license to carry in order to exercise his right to self-defense. The Boston Police issued Phipps a firearms license that was restricted to “target and hunting.”

A determined Phipps then wrote a letter to Lt. John McDonough, commander of the Boston Police Department’s licensing unit, that explained his need for a unrestricted license to carry, citing that “(1) he is a business owner, (2) he regularly makes deposits of large sums of money, (3) he frequently must visit high crime areas in Roxbury and Dorchester, and (4) he had been the victim of crime in the past in the vicinity of his business after closing the store.” McDonough denied Phipps’s request for a change in license.

Still determined to obtain a license to carry, Phipps called the Boston Police licensing unit and met in person with McDonough. Following the meeting, the Boston Police revoked Phipps’s restricted firearms license outright.

On January 30, the Appeals Court of Massachusetts ruled in Phipps’s favor and ordered the Boston Police to issue Phipps an unrestricted license to carry. The court explained,

Because Phipps has demonstrated by substantial evidence his need to protect himself and his retail business, and because the department failed to show that it restricted and revoked his license to carry a firearm for objective reasons related to public safety, the department was without reasonable grounds to conclude he was an unsuitable person to possess a firearm for any lawful purpose.

Taking a swipe at the executive branch, the court went on to note, “The actions of the commissioner challenged here were arbitrary and capricious, in that the reasons given for the revocation and restriction of Phipps’s license to carry a firearm bear no reasonable nexus to public safety.”

It is encouraging that in some instances the Massachusetts courts have been willing to protect the rights of Bay State residents from a zealously anti-gun bureaucrats. However, a situation where individuals’ rights must be perpetually vindicated through the courts at public and private expense due to a recalcitrant executive branch is no one’s idea of good governance.

Gun owners in the rest of the country should take note of the mess in Massachusetts. While anti-gun activists peddle firearms licensing as “a simple way to make sure guns are purchased and used by responsible Americans,” few objective observers would characterize Massachusetts’s ongoing FID debacle as “simple.”

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit:

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gun owners…get the heck out of MA and come up to lovely NH. no permits required for..well..damn near anything.

Country Boy

Sounds like it’s about time he was invited to a soap and sock party?

Jon M.

A number of years ago I was briefly a tax slave in the workers paradise of the commie-wealth of Massachusetts. When I moved there I was required to apply for a FID (Firearms Owner ID) card, for the guns I already owned. I was introduced to the manner in which the police there “uphold and defend” that sacred right to arms confirmed by the Second Amendment while waiting at the police station after filing my application papers. I observed the officer who had taken the paperwork place it on a large pile of such papers on his desk. Soon thereafter… Read more »


Ah yes, the birdy darstids of Boston. General Thomas W Gage would be smiling. Thank God for his Patriot Wife Margaret, who spilled the beans on his planned Lexington/Concord raid. Othewise me might still be paying the jizra to the current reigning monarch of England. ALL of these clowns denying the right to arms of the people of Boston have sworn a solemn oath to defend and uphold both the Constitutions of the UNited States and of Massachussetts. Swearing such an oath then failing to keep it is felony perjury. Charge them. Go after their personal bonds and insurance. Once… Read more »

Get Out

Carry anyway.

rich z

The SHOT heard AROUND the world (American History) May be heard AGAIN.


At least there is some precedent for similarly-situated individuals!


I was born and raised there, and left the minute that I was able. It is a find a reason to NOT issue state.

Matt E

The British would have loved Charlie Baker during the Colonial Times when the Brits were the Jack Boots Gestapo.


Sure trample on peoples rights, as long as they don’t fight back it must be okay. In that case lets do it some more and see what we can get away with. And hey, no consequences and no costs involved, the taxpayers get to fund the legal challenges.


I recall watching a special on PBS about Concord and Lexington and what transpired on April 19th( the real Patriots Day) 1775. Local authorities confiscated the powder from the reanactors because it was illegal to discharge even blank charges from their muskets!
The Assylum 9f Massachusetts is indeed being run by the inmates!

Roger Jerry

I will never again live in Massachusetts. Left there in the ’80s and never looked back. I remember a kid arrested because he had been given a fired blank cartridge after an American Legion ceremony. The teenager barely avoided jail time.


Massachusetts leadership is evolving into the same tyrants that they drove out of Boston on St. Patrick’s Day some years ago. Charlie Baker is violating Article VI within the US Constitution and should be defunded, and removed from office. Any leadernor judge not in good standing with the US Constitution, should be Defunded, Dosbarred, and Discharged from office! Article VI them! Notice I did not refer to Baker as Governor, because he is supporting and enforcing unconstitutional laws and regulations and therefore is in violation of his oath and office.

Danny Trent

time for americans to take a stand again overzealous government, demand that their rights are up held , if government office dont represent the people then it’s time for their removal from same.


Wow! Thanks for this story. Congrats to Mr Phipps….finally!