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Non-resident charged in Massachusetts with possession of a Firearm without an FID card

As a non-resident of Massachusetts who may be traveling within the State, are you allowed to carry a gun and what do you need to know if stopped by the police while carrying a gun? Do not assume that a license from another state allow you to carry a firearm while traveling through other states. If you are stopped by the police while carrying a firearm licensed out of state, what information should you need to avoid arrest?

The Massachusetts Supreme Court recently held that the police do not need to first determine if you have a valid license before arresting you, if they believe your firearm is not legally licensed in the State. To understand what you should do if stopped by the police as an out of state resident with a firearm in Massachusetts, it is important to first understand the local firearms laws.

First, when transporting a firearm, keep it unloaded and locked in a case in your trunk or rear storage compartment. Do not keep the gun in a glove box, a center console, under your seat, on your person, etc., and take care to ensure that the gun is not loaded. Keep the ammunition locked away as well.

Next, be aware that Massachusetts allows two types of licenses for firearms, and the police are likely to assume that if you do not have one of these, it is not legal for you to be in possession of your firearm.  Massachusetts allows for two types of licenses for firearms.  The license to carry (LTC) permits you to purchase, possess, and transport handguns, rifles, shotguns, and ammunition. This is the only license that allows you to carry a concealed firearm.  Massachusetts does allow non-residents to apply for a non-resident LTC and if you will be in the State for longer than a brief period, you want to go this route prior to your visit. The second type of license is the firearms identification card (FID) allows the purchase, possession, and transportation of non-large-capacity rifles, shotguns, and ammunition.

If you do not want to or do not have time to get a non-resident LTC prior to your visit, Massachusetts law does provide a few legal options for non-residents without licenses.

If you are coming to the State to hunt, you do not need a license as long as long as you have a valid Massachusetts non-resident hunting license. Having a valid non-resident hunting license means you do not need a firearm license to possess rifles, shotguns, and ammunition during hunting season.  Be sure to inform the officer  that you are a hunter, and be ready to show the hunting license.  This exception only applies during hunting season and does not apply to handguns.

If you are just passing through the State, you do not need a firearms license to transport a firearm in or through the State of Massachusetts as long as the firearm is unloaded and enclosed in a case.

Non-residents who are taking part in a shooting competition in the State may carry a handgun in or through the state, as long as you have a license to carry a gun from any other state.

In some cases you will be charged with possession of a firearm without an FID card based on the claim that you were not merely passing through.  Massachusetts gun laws are very strict; if you travel through Massachusetts, it is best to get an FID card or avoid traveling through with a firearm.  You could find yourself charged.  If the evidence is clear you are just passing through, most prosecutors will exercise discretion and offer an appropriate resolution to the case.  But it will still cause you to have to hire a lawyer and appear in court.

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