Citation(s) from the GunPolicy.org literature library
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 2021 ‘Background Check Procedures in Massachusetts.’ Background Checks. San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. 15 June
Background Checks in Massachusetts
Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state "point of contact" and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System ("NICS") database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)
Massachusetts is not a point of contact state for the NICS. As a result, in Massachusetts, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the FBI directly. A state administrative regulation confirms this requirement.
Massachusetts also requires firearms owners to obtain a state license prior to purchase of a firearm, and the applicant for a license must undergo a background check before the license is issued. For more information about these licenses, see Licensing of Gun Owners or Purchasers below. Massachusetts requires firearms dealers to verify the validity of a potential transferee's license prior to transferring a firearm. For licenses issued via the Massachusetts Instant Record Check System (MIRCS), the dealer must electronically submit:
- The transferee's license number;
- The licensing authority that issued the license;
- The type of firearm being purchased; and
- Whether or not the firearm is a large capacity weapon.
The dealer must then verify the transferee's identity and validity of his or her license by scanning the fingerprint or entering the personal identification number contained on the license. If the license presented is expired, suspended or revoked, the dealer must notify the licensing authority and may take possession of it (in the latter case, the dealer must provide the holder with a receipt for the FID, permit or license, notify the holder of the need to renew the FID, permit or license, and forward it to the licensing authority).
Although Massachusetts does not explicitly require private sellers of firearms (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check before transferring a firearm, Massachusetts prohibits almost all private sales of firearms. In cases where private sales are permissible, the purchaser must have the required state license, and the private seller must report the sale to the state…
[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]