Hundreds of Massachusetts gun owners who won approval from a state review board to obtain a firearms license are now being told they are ineligible to possess guns after all.
As many as 340 firearms licensees in the Commonwealth may soon be contacted by their local police chief to turn in their licenses, according to a report by The Boston Globe. The problem lies with the Massachusetts Firearm Licensing Review Board, a seven-member body formed in 2004 with the purpose of reviewing petitions from those with misdemeanor convictions that barred them from owning guns.
In recent weeks, the Board met with representatives with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and determined that federal laws barring firearm possession by those with misdemeanor convictions hold sway regardless of the quasi-judicial review board’s decision. Whereas the Board was able to examine some old non-violent misdemeanors with a sentence of fewer than 2.5 years, federal law says that any state offense classified as a misdemeanor punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years should result in the loss of gun rights.
Although the Board for over a decade has ruled contradictory to federal law in many cases, and is now effectively useless, it would continue to meet to abide by state statute, MassLive.com reported. However, for many who in some cases spent thousands of dollars to have their gun rights restored — to include several police officers — the legal rug has been pulled out from under them.
“It’s a difficult scenario,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts. “On the one hand, the state told the citizen, ‘You’re fine,’ and then the federal government comes in and says, ‘You’re not.’ ”
In letters sent to police chiefs throughout the state, the Board put the task of revoking the incorrectly issued licenses on local law enforcement as the Board said they had no authority to revoke or suspend licenses themselves.