See our Concealed Carry policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Massachusetts allows a person to carry a firearm in public if the person has the appropriate license.1
Massachusetts prohibits the possession of a loaded rifle or shotgun on any public way, regardless of whether the possessor has a Firearm Identification Card (FID) or license to carry.2 Unloaded rifles or shotguns may be carried on a public way so long as they are enclosed in a case, and the person has the appropriate permit.3
A license to carry entitles the possessor to purchase, possess, rent, borrow, lease and carry all types of lawful firearms, including handguns and large capacity firearms, and feeding devices and ammunition for these firearms.4 A licensing authority may impose further restrictions it deems proper on the licensee regarding the possession or use of large capacity rifles or shotguns.5
Massachusetts is a “may-issue” state for the issuance of licenses to carry firearms, meaning that the local licensing authority has discretion in determining whether or not to issue either license type to an applicant. It may deny the application or renewal of an applicant, or suspend or revoke a license, if in the “reasonable exercise of discretion,” the licensing authority determines that the applicant or licensee is unsuitable to carry a firearm. A determination of unsuitability must be based on reliable and credible information that the individual has exhibited or engaged in behavior that he or she poses a risk to public safety.6 A license to carry will be revoked or suspended by the licensing authority upon the occurrence of any event that would have disqualified the holder from being issued the license, or if it appears to the licensing authority that the holder is no longer a suitable person to possess the license.7 Upon the denial of an application or renewal, or the suspension or revocation, of a license to carry based on unsuitability, the licensing authority must notify the applicant or licensee of the specific reasons for the determination.8
The licensing authority or the colonel of state police may issue a license to carry to any person who:
- Resides or has a place of business within the jurisdiction of a particular licensing authority, or any person residing in an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction located within a city or town.9 However, A temporary license to carry firearms may be issued by the colonel of state police to a nonresident of Massachusetts or any person not falling within the jurisdiction of a local licensing authority “for purposes of firearms competition and subject to such terms and conditions as said colonel may deem proper.”10
- Is a suitable person to be issued such license, and has good reason to fear injury to his person or property, or for any other reason, including the carrying of firearms for use in sport or target practice only.
- Has not been convicted or adjudicated a youthful offender or delinquent child;
- Has not been committed to a hospital or institution for mental illness, alcohol or substance abuse;
- Is not subject to an order of the probate court appointing a guardian or conservator for a incapacitated person on the grounds that the applicant lacks the mental capacity to contract or manage the applicant’s affairs;
- Is greater than 21 years of age;
- Is not an alien who does not maintain lawful permanent residency;
- Is not subject to a temporary or emergency restraining order, or order of protection;
- Is not currently the subject of an outstanding arrest warrant in any state or federal jurisdiction;
- Has not been discharged from the armed forces of the United States under dishonorable conditions;
- Is not a fugitive from justice; or
- Having been a citizen of the United States, has not renounced that citizenship.11
The licensing authority has 40 days from the date an application is submitted to approve or deny the application for a license to carry.12
Applicants whose licenses have been revoked or suspended must surrender their license to the licensing authority, and must surrender their firearms.13 Individuals who possess firearms without the proper card or license for the firearm possessed may face fines and prison time.14
See the Licensing of Gun Purchasers / Owners section for further information.
Firearm Safety Training
Persons applying for a license to carry and who were not in possession of a FID or either license type prior to June 1, 1998 must submit a basic firearms safety certificate (“BFSC”) to the licensing authority.15 No application for the issuance of a license to carry will be accepted or processed by the licensing authority without this certificate.16 To obtain a BFSC, an applicant must successfully complete a basic firearms safety course.17
Duration & Renewal
Once issued, a Massachusetts license to carry firearms is valid for up to six years from the date of issue.18
Disclosure or Use of Information
Massachusetts does not allow the names and addresses of license holders to be made public.19 Names and addresses that are exempt from the definition of “public records” include those that:
- Are contained in or referred to on an application for a license to carry;
- Appear on sale or transfer forms for any handguns, rifles, shotguns, or machine guns or ammunition; or
- Appear on an actual license to carry.20
The executive director of the criminal history systems board is required to promulgate rules and regulations “to ensure the prompt collection, exchange, dissemination and distribution of firearms record information…”21
A non-resident may carry a pistol or revolver in the state when engaging in a firearm competition, while attending any meeting or exhibition of any organized group of firearm collectors, or for the purpose of hunting, if he or she:
- Is a resident of the United States; and
- Has a permit or license to carry firearms issued under the laws of any state or local jurisdiction having regulations that prohibit the issuance of permits or licenses to persons who have been convicted of a felony or of the unlawful use, possession or sale of narcotic or harmful drugs; or
- For a hunter traveling in or through Massachusetts, possesses a hunting or sporting license issued by Massachusetts or the state of his or her destination.22
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, § 10.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, § 12D. Exceptions exist for hunting purposes. Id.
- Id. For information on the carrying of firearms for hunting, see Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 131, §§ 11, 14, 70.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131E.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(a), (b).
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(f).
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(d).
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131F.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(d).
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(e).
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 129D, 131(f).
- See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, § 10.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131P(a).
- 515 Mass. Code Regs. 3.01 et seq.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(i).
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 66, § 10B.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 4, § 7 (Twenty-sixth)(j).
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 6, § 168B. An amendment effective Nov 4, 2012 will transfer this responsibility to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131G.