License Renewal Problems - Range Access
License Renewal Problems
The GOAL office has received a lot of communication from members and gun owners in general concerning their recent inability to renew their LTC or FID. Many of these problems are due to the fact that the government has spent a lot of resources computerizing old paper court records. These old records that have languished in the dingy basements of court houses around the state are now available at a key stroke. With this available information, the state is now disqualifying individuals who may have renewed two or three times since the Gun Control Act of 1998. In many instances the applicants claim they did not even remember the incidents until they were denied the renewal.
There have been inquiries as to whether these circumstances should provide for some type of grandfathering. Their logic being that the citizens in question have already renewed several times and have had no problems then they should have demonstrated that they are suitable to maintain their rights. Unfortunately, for Massachusetts gun owners, logic rarely enters into the discussion of state gun law. Potential court challenges aside, as far as the state is concerned a disqualifier is currently a disqualifier no matter when it is found.
There is another problem that is starting to arise out of this issue and that is a potential false statement on the application. On the official Massachusetts application for a new or renewed LTC or FID question number ten asks:
Have you ever appeared in any court as a defendant for any criminal offense (excluding non-criminal traffic offenses)?
This question, perhaps more than any other has tripped up applicants, especially in non-friendly communities who look for any reason to strip you of your rights. There are several points here to deal with.
The first is the term that presents a problem is “appeared in any court as a defendant.” Many people read that quickly and assume that it refers to convictions. It does not. Still other people get confused about the circumstances thinking it meant a trial. Most misdemeanors throughout modern history are handled via a plea and sentencing without a trial. Because some applicants don’t consider that to be a “defendant in court” they don’t answer the question correctly. In any case, many people unintentionally provide an incorrect or “false” answer to question ten.
Another problem with this question is that applicants who have successfully renewed since 1998 feel no reason to disclose any records that might be pertinent. Many claim they simply forgot about pleading out when they were a teenager. Sadly, the state is not being forgiving when it comes to these old records and memory lapses.
So where do problems with the infamous question ten bring us? In both the LTC laws and the FID card laws there are rather severe penalties for answering the question incorrectly.
Chapter 140, Section 129B(8) Any person who knowingly files an application containing false information shall be punished by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or by imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than two years in a house of correction, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
Chapter 140, Section 131(h) Any person who knowingly files an application containing false information shall be punished by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or by imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than two years in a house of correction, or by both such fine and imprisonment.
While GOAL has not heard of any citizens being fined or jailed for question ten problems, we have heard of many cases where they have had their LTC or FID denied as a result. The latter part is most concerning since neither of the penalties outlined in sections 129B or 131 rise to the level of a crime punishable by more than two years (statutory disqualifier). Of course with the LTC there is always the infamous “suitability” trump card that can be played by unfriendly licensing officials. The FID card is another story all together since the “suitability” in that matter does not exist.
The only other explanation could be a very perverse use of a statutory disqualifier clause that exists in both sections 129B and 131.
129B(1)(i)(d) a violation of any law regulating the use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed
131(d)(i)(d) a violation of any law regulating the use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed
It would be a very long stretch to have a court rule that a poor answer on question ten could be construed as falling into one of these categories. Although, these are the same courts that have ruled that Heller and MacDonald don’t apply to Massachusetts law so don’t count on it.
GOAL will be studying this issue closely over the next few months. If any of our members are being disqualified for issues surrounding question ten, please forward us the information. We certainly don’t support the current gun laws in the Commonwealth and they are only made worse when they are being applied incorrectly.
Recently it was my honor to be appointed to two committees at the national level of the NRA. One of those is the committee on Shooters with Disabilities. The conversations at the last two meetings of the committee have focused on range and target access by persons with disabilities. Normally we think of access assistance to the club house or other structure or what we call “ground to facility”. These talks have been about making it easier to access the range and targets or “ground to target”.
While there was certainly a lot of discussion about disabled veterans as a result of the wars, there is also a lot of discussion about the aging shooting community. Wheelchair access to the facility and ranges is very important, but has your club thought about those who have bad knees, hips or balance problems. Does the path to the range consist of uneven stones? Do you have plenty of benches for people to rest and are they in the shade for the summer? Can someone who walks with a cane easily access the target stands? So there is a lot to think about not only for wheelchair bound folks, but also a host of people with a wide range of physical issues.
The committee is looking to put together some suggestions for clubs and ranges to think about when looking at their ranges. It has not yet been determined whether it will be included in the range source information or what the best way to distribute upcoming materials will be. In the meantime it is something to start thinking about at your local club. Making it easier for people to access your ranges will certainly only benefit the clubs. More info to follow.