Tuesday, April 16, 2013

My Firearms License Application was Denied. Can I appeal?

There are two categories of reasons your application for a firearms license may be denied.

An application for a License to Carry Firearms will be denied if you are disqualified under the terms of M.G.L. c. 140, s. 131. Generally, if you have been convicted of any crime punishable by more than 2 1/2 years in prison, been convicted of a violent crime or crime involving firearms, controlled substances, or any other felony, you are ineligible to obtain a license to carry firearms (LTC). You may also be unable to obtain an LTC if you have been treated for substance abuse addiction, or been confined to an institution for mental illness.

However, even if you have not been convicted of a disqualifying offense, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer in your town must still subjectively determine that you are "suitable" to possess firearms. Even if you are statutorily eligible to obtain an LTC, if the police chief finds you "unsuitable", your license will be denied. The Chief Law Enforcement Officer may consider nearly any evidence at his or her disposal, including police reports, court records that did not result in convictions, sealed records, the applicant's truthfulness on the application, and a number of other subjective factors.

Appeals to District Court

A denial made on the basis of "suitability" must be challenged in the District Court where the applicant resides. The burden of proof is on the applicant to prove that the chief's decision to deny the license to carry firearms was "arbitrary and capricious".

Appeals to the FLRB

A denial made on the basis of the applicant's statutory ineligibility may, in certain cases, petition the Firearm License Review Board for a determination that the conviction is not to be considered a statutory barrier to obtaining the sought after license. The FLRB only has the authority to review certain misdemeanor convictions, and the burden of proof falls on the petitioner to demonstrate that the disqualifying conviction does not impact their suitability to possess a firearm.

It is important that you understand that the Firearms Licensing Board (FLRB) has the authority to review only misdemeanor convictions, and that the FLRB may not review convictions for:

a) an assault or battery on a family or household member, or a person with whom you have had a substantive dating relationship, as defined by G.L. c. 209A, § 1;

b) a crime involving use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed; or

c) a crime regulating the use, possession or sale of controlled substances.

In addition, the statute specifies that the FLRB may not review a petition if the petitioner:

a) has a disqualifying felony conviction;

b) has multiple misdemeanor convictions, unless the offenses arise from one incident;

c) was denied a license to carry on the basis of suitability rather than a disqualifying conviction (the District Court is the appropriate forum for appeal in this case); or

d) is disqualified for a reason other than a misdemeanor conviction, such as having an active warrant or restraining order.

Finally, the FLRB may not review a petition until after the passage of five (5) years since the misdemeanor conviction or release from supervision, whichever is last occurring.

Also note that a decision by the FLRB in the applicant's favor does not automatically grant a firearms license - the chief of police may still exercise his or her discretion with respect to the applicant's overall suitability. The FLRB can only grant state relief to the issue of statutory ineligibility

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