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In recent months and during the last week in particular, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has denied several constitutional challenges to the Commonwealth’s licensing requirements for guns and ammunition. These challenges have increased following recent decisions by the United States Supreme Court, which were favorable to advocates of the right to keep and bear arms, as afforded by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The challenges often appear in the context of criminal proceedings, wherein the defendants are required to prove a valid license as an affirmative defense, instead of the prosecutor being required to prove the lack of a license, beyond a reasonable doubt, and as part of their case in chief. Although the SJC repeatedly denies these challenges, leaving it up to the defendants to ask the United States Supreme Court to overturn the denials (which has not happened yet), on April 11, 2012, the Supreme Judicial Court did rule in a defendant’s favor on one isolated challenge. On that date, the SJC agreed that no license is required to possess a gun manufactured in or before 1899 under the state’s current licensing framework. The court expressly noted that this exemption does not permit a person to possess ammunition for antique guns though (absent an additional exemption or license), so a loaded antique gun can still lead to charges and a conviction.
About the Author
Attorney Nicholas J. LaFountain has extensive experience litigating and negotiating civil disputes of many types. He has been successfully representing clients in the courtroom since 2004.