Massachusetts has some of the nation’s strongest laws to disarm hate.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Massachusetts
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
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|State Law||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access|
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Massachusetts’s hate crime law makes it a misdemeanor to commit “assault” or “battery” (crimes involving the use or threatened use of force) with intent to intimidate a victim because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.1 This hate crime offense is punishable by imprisonment for up to two and a half years,2 the same penalty for other assault and battery offenses in Massachusetts.3If the hate crime results in bodily injury, or the offender is armed with a firearm, the crime is classified as a felony instead.4
Massachusetts does not explicitly prohibit people convicted of hate crimes from accessing firearms, but like federal law,5generally prohibits people from accessing firearms6 if they have been convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor punishable by more than two years in prison.7 (Massachusetts also generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a “violent crime,” or of a number of specified weapons-related crimes).8
Massachusetts classifies nearly all violent crimes as felonies or as misdemeanors punishable by more than two years in prison, triggering both state and federal firearm restrictions in either case.9This includes people convicted under the state’s hate crime statute, as well as those convicted of essentially all other assault, battery, stalking, criminal harassment, and criminal threat crimes.10
A notable exception is that state law also makes it a crime to use force or threat of force to willfully injure, intimidate, threaten, or interfere with another person’s free exercise of their legal rights.11 People convicted of this crime are generally not restricted from accessing guns, unless the crime results in bodily injury,12 although the same conduct may generally be charged as a firearm-prohibiting assault or battery instead.
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- Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 265, § 39. Such intent need not be the only reason for the alleged crime. Commonwealth v. Kelly, 470 Mass. 682, 25 N.E.3d 288 (2015). Notably, the statute does not include the victim’s ethnicity or gender as protected categories.
- Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 265, § 39(a).
- Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 265, § 13A(a).
- Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 265, § 39(b); Mass Ann. Laws ch. 274 §1.0
- Federal law generally prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 921(a)(20)(B).
- Massachusetts generally requires individuals to apply for and receive a license from their local police department in order to purchase, possess, carry or transport a firearm. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 140, §§ 131E, 129B, 131, 129C.
- Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 140, § 129B(1)(i), (ii).
- Id. In Massachusetts, a crime is categorized as a felony if it is punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison, while all other crimes are misdemeanors. Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 274, § 1.
- A misdemeanor conviction under the law of any state triggers federal firearm restrictions if state law makes the misdemeanor punishable by more than two years imprisonment. 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 265, §§ 39; 13A(a); 15A; 15B; 43; 43A.
- Mass. Ann. Laws ch. 265, § 37.
- That is because this crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison unless the crime results in bodily injury, in which case it is a felony.