Massachusetts requires all firearms to be secured in a locked container when not in possession of the lawful owner. As a Boston criminal defense attorney, many are often confused on what is required to satisfy this statute. The recent case of Commonwealth v. Reyes decided by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court discussed what is truly meant by this statute.
The defendant in this case owned a firearm lawfully with a class A license. On his way to work as a correctional officer the defendant had the gun on him and left it in his glove compartment going into work. His car was later searched and the gun was found with no lock or safety device attached to it. The defendant was charged and convicted of the storage status violation.
The defendant asked for the charge to be dropped because the law is unconstitutionally vague and also offended his second amendment right to bear arms. The court ruled this did not offend defendant’s second amendment rights as he still had a right to carry the gun. The discussion then turns to whether the “secured in a locked container” provided enough information for the law to be followed by gun owners.
For a law to be valid, it has be sufficiently clear to give the public notice of the prohibited conduct. The court ruled that this rule is sufficiently clear and explained what needing the gun to be secured in a locked container truly meant. They turned to the intent of the statute for this meaning. The SJC stated that the purpose of this statute was to prevent criminal or negligent handling of firearms by people who are not the lawful owner of a gun. The court holds that to be “secure” it must be locked and secure enough to prevent others from easily obtaining the gun for misuse. There are many ways a gun can be secured but at minimum it has to be in a container only accessible with a key or a password of some sort. The court rules that having the gun locked in a car is not enough for the gun to be secure. Had the glove compartment been locked and needed a key to gain entry, that will probably be enough to be secure.
The conviction was overturned by the court but sent back to trial so the judge could give the proper instruction on what a weapon being secured in a locked container truly means. The case will ultimately come down to whether or not the glove compartment was locked or not. When the owner is the only person who can access the gun, it will be considered secured. However, if a gun is easily accessible to the public, even if it is in a locked area, it will not be considered secure. Commonwealth v. Reyes shows us that it is not enough for the owner of a gun to lock their weapon but it must be secure enough to prevent the public from being able to gain control over the gun.