A Catch-22 for Massachusetts gun sellers?

A Catch-22 for Massachusetts gun sellers?

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey has been an anti-gun crusader throughout her time in public office, including her “reinterpretation” of the state’s ban on so-called assault weapons to encompass almost all semi-automatic long guns back when she was the state’s Attorney General; causing a run on modern sporting rifles in the short term and mass confusion over what exactly is an “assault weapon” under Massachusetts law ever since.

Healey’s latest edit is aimed at gun stores in the state, not directly at gun owners, but as Gun Owners Action League executive director Jim Wallace tells Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co, the governor’s recent announcement that the state will be providing new training for local law enforcement when they inspect FFLs is also sowing uncertainty.

As Wallace explains, the state law requiring annual inspections of local gun dealers is nothing new, but it’s been rarely and sporadically enforced since its enactment back in the 1980s. And despite Healey’s new directive on training local law enforcement on how to conduct the inspections, Wallace says under current law the state doesn’t really have a role to play.

For nearly a quarter of a century Massachusetts gun owners have struggled with many Local Licensing Authorities that make up their own rules when it comes to license application processes. During all this time, the State has consistently maintained that they have no control over the local authorities. The State further maintained that these were no State licenses (FID/LTC).

This is an interesting, convoluted stance since the firearm retailer licenses (Chapter 140, Section 122) are also issued by the Local Licensing Authorities. So, why suddenly does the State have the authority to train the local authorities on their legal obligations under this particular license?

Because Healey says so, that’s why. But Wallace says the issues with the governor’s directive go far beyond whether or not the state is overstepping its authority. While we haven’t seen the training standards yet, the Second Amendment advocate says the state appears to be asking the impossible of gun store owners.

Under Chapter 140, Section 123 the Local Licensing Authorities are required to conduct an annual inspection of all licensed retailers. The only authority they have under this law is: “…inspect, in a reasonable manner, such records and inventory for the purpose of enforcing the provisions of this section…” there are two clear problems here.

First, the State law clearly requires the Commonwealth to provide a “sales record book” to all licensed retailers. To date, no such books have ever been made available. It is the practice of the State to consider the records in the Massachusetts Instant Record Check System to act as the official books. That means there are no records to inspect on the retailer premises.

Second, there is no State law requiring retailers to keep a State inventory or report such inventory. To further complicate matters if the local authorities conduct such an inspection is that Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) (as we understand it) are allowed to keep inventory that can’t be transferred in the Commonwealth. So, what exactly will they be inspecting?

It’s a good question, but it also raises several others. Will some of those jurisdictions that have historically been hostile to the right to keep and bear arms use the convoluted language to try to shut down gun shops that don’t have a “sales record book” or track their inventory for the state, even though they’re not required by law? I wouldn’t be surprised to see it, especially since Healey is clearly hoping to add more red tape and regulations to firearm retailers.

Wallace says that GOAL is trying to get ahold of the actual training material and not just the governor’s talking points, so we’ll hopefully have some additional news to report on in the days ahead. Be sure to check out the entire conversation with Jim Wallace in the video window below, and stay tuned for any new developments as this training gets rolled out.