MA Gun Licensing a ‘Patchwork’ Sometimes Based on Chief’s Whim


The Boston Globe says the gun licensing process in Massachusetts is a patchwork system in which geography and a law enforcer’s gut instinct can determine which type of license someone is granted. Although applicants must clear a state background check — no felony convictions or restraining orders, for example —the final say goes to local police chiefs, who have discretion to reject any resident not deemed “suitable” for a license to carry. They also can limit permits to target practice, sport, hunting, or to people whose jobs are thought to put them at risk.

The most unrestricted is the Class A license, which allows them to carry not only a concealed weapon but loaded, large-capacity handguns, rifles, and shotguns without limits on use. It is the broadest gun license available under state law, held by 240,000 people. Thomas O'Loughlin, the police chief in Milford, a town of 28,000 people that had 1,395 licenses to carry last year, said he always opts for the least restrictive license. By contrast, Newton police routinely restrict those gun licenses. The city had 1,147 active Class A licenses in 2012 — 18 percent fewer than Milford despite being three times bigger. Unrestricted licenses to carry a gun, which cost $100 and must be sought in an applicant's place of residence, comprise about three-quarters of the gun permits in Massachusetts.

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