This case is offered as a guideline to any of you making application for a firearms license (license to carry). Moderators feel free to copy, comment or refer to on your forums since the subject matter itself has been conversed in many forums.
I felt compelled to report the following case which came down in July from the Trial Court (Superior Court) of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
A District Court Judge overturned a police chief’s decision to deny an application for a firearms license, the District Court order must be vacated because the chief had a reasonable basis for finding the applicant not to be “a sufficiently responsible person to be entrusted with a license to carry firearms”.
The Court Order reinstated the police chief’s decision.
The very mention of firearms control and the Massachusetts statutory process for acquiring a permit to carry firearms evokes strong feelings among much of the populace of the state and for that matter in the country.
It is not my intention to participate in the subject of gun control of any kind and I put aside my views as a strong constitutionalist, and report the basis of the Court’s decision as a guideline based upon the facts reported.
The facts, undisputed were that on two separate occasions, once in Concord and once in Illinois, the applicant was involved in physical altercations with his wife. Both times, police summoned received reports of violent conduct on both sides, leading to arrest of applicant.
Although no criminal convictions resulted, and no information indicated the use of any firearms, the police chief could nevertheless properly consider the volatile nature of applicant’s marriage as bearing on his suitability fir a license to carry firearms. The chief could properly consider in evaluating applicant’s suitability , the information available to him in evaluating regarding applicant’s conduct with respect to firearms, as derived from a March 21, 1999 incident. That information included possession of multiple weapons and ammunition, stored or unlocked in a household that included a teenager, with apparently little attention to Massachusetts licensing requirements.
Although he had held both a firearms identification card and a license to carry, the latter had expired some thirteen years before, and the former had been issued more than twenty years before by a town he had long since left. The chief could properly consider his failure to provide accurate and complete response to all questions on the application form. The answer to question number 13, inquiring whether he had ever been “involved in a domestic violence charge” was indisputably false, at least in the sense of being accurate, if not in the sense of being deceptive Similarly his omission of the Illinois arrest from the narrative portion of this form, seeking details of all affirmative answers, rendered that answer significantly incomplete. His uninformative answer to the question calling for the reasons for the application could reasonable be viewed as in the same vein. Whether he intended to conceal or merely misunderstood the application form, as the District Court apparently inferred, is not determinative of the reasonableness of (the chief’s) conclusion.
Applicant’s obligation, as the form unequivocally notified him was to provide full and complete information from which the licensing authority could make its determination not to screen his answers based on his own view of what information was released. His failure to do so, along with the substance of the information supports the police chief’s determination that the applicant was not sufficiently a responsible person to be entrusted to carry firearms.
The case is Wetherbee v. Costerus Middlesex Superior Court Civil Action No. 00-2352.