Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2023 ‘Licensing in Massachusetts.’ Owner Responsibilities. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 31 January
Licensing of Gun Owners and Purchasers in Massachusetts
There are four types of licenses for gun purchasers and owners in Massachusetts: the Firearm Identification or FID card, the Class A license, the Class B license, and a "permit to purchase, rent or lease." Each entitles the holder to different privileges, described below.
A FID card enables the holder to purchase or possess only rifles and shotguns that are not considered "large capacity" weapons, and feeding devices for long guns that are not "large capacity" weapons. "Large capacity weapon" includes assault weapons and most firearms capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition or more than five shotgun shells (either directly, or via a large capacity feeding device).
In order to purchase a handgun or handgun feeding device (or short-barreled shotgun or rifle), the person must obtain a FID card and a "permit to purchase, rent or lease." A permit to purchase, rent or lease a handgun or short-barreled firearm is issued at the discretion of the licensing authority for "a proper purpose," is valid for only 10 days, and can be revoked at any time. The licensing authority may restrict the caliber and capacity of the firearm that may be purchased, rented or leased with the license. The licensing authority must send a copy of each issued permit to the commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services within one week. When a firearms dealer transfers a handgun to a person holding a permit to purchase, rent or lease, the dealer is required to write on the permit the date and place of the transfer, and transmit the permit to the executive director of the Criminal History Systems Board.
A Class A license allows the licensee to purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry all types of lawful firearms, including both large and non-large capacity handguns, rifles, shotguns, and feeding devices and ammunition for these firearms. A Class B license is more limited, allowing the licensee to purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry "non-large capacity" handguns, or any rifle or shotgun, including large capacity rifles and shotguns, and feeding devices and ammunition for these firearms. Unlike FID holders, Class A and B licensees may purchase handguns and short-barreled firearms without obtaining a permit to purchase, rent or lease. Class B licensees cannot carry a concealed, loaded firearm in any public way or place. State law does not appear to limit the number of firearms a Class A or B licensee may purchase or possess…
Any person residing or having a place of business within the jurisdiction of a city or town police department ("licensing authority"), or any person residing in an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction located within a city or town, may submit to the local licensing authority an application for a FID or a Class A or B license to carry firearms. A Class A or Class B temporary license to carry firearms may also be issued by the colonel of state police to a nonresident of Massachusetts or any person not falling within the jurisdiction of a local licensing authority "for purposes of firearms competition and subject to such terms and conditions as said colonel may deem proper."
The licensing authority must issue a FID, and may issue a Class A or B license, unless the applicant falls into one of the prohibited categories listed above in the section entitled Prohibited Purchasers Generally… In addition, the law states that the licensing authority may issue a Class A or B license if "it appears that the applicant is a suitable person to be issued such license…"
In the application process for either a FID or a Class A or B license, the licensing authority must forward one copy of the application and one copy of the applicant's fingerprints to the colonel of state police ("colonel") who must, within 30 days, advise the licensing authority, in writing, of any disqualifying criminal record, and whether there is reason to believe that the applicant is otherwise disqualified from possessing a FID or either license. The colonel shall utilize files maintained by the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Probation "and statewide and nationwide criminal justice, warrant and protection order information systems and files including, but not limited to," the National Instant Criminal Background Check System ("NICS"). The licensing authority has 40 days from the date an application is submitted to approve or deny the application for a Class A or B license or a FID.
In the case of a Class A or B license:
The licensing authority may also make inquiries concerning the applicant to: (i) the commissioner of the department of criminal justice information services relative to any disqualifying condition and records of purchases, sales, rentals, leases and transfers of weapons or ammunition concerning the applicant;
(ii) the commissioner of probation relative to any record contained within the department of probation or the statewide domestic violence record keeping system concerning the applicant; and
(iii) the commissioner of the Department of Mental Health relative to whether the applicant is a suitable person to possess firearms or is not a suitable person to possess firearms. The director or commissioner to whom the licensing authority makes such inquiry shall provide prompt and full cooperation for that purpose in any investigation of the applicant.
Massachusetts law also prohibits any person from using a FID or Class A or B license for the purpose of purchasing a firearm for the unlawful use of another, or for resale of a firearm, or giving a firearm to, an unlicensed person.
A FID is generally valid for six years from the date of issue. A Class A or B license is valid not more than six years from the date of issue…
[Editor's note: The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence regularly updates its webpages with new data as US gun regulation evolves state by state. For the most up-to-date information on US gun laws, please refer to the Giffords URL below]