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People who wish to purchase and possess firearms in Massachusetts must generally obtain a Firearm Identification Card (“FID”) or License to Carry Firearms (“LTC”) pursuant to a background check.1 For further information about these licenses, please see the Licensing in Massachusetts section.

Massachusetts law also generally requires individuals to have a state firearm dealer license in order to transfer ownership of a firearm,2 and requires dealers to verify the validity of a potential transferee’s Firearm Identification Card (“FIDs”) or License to Carry Firearms (“LTCs”) prior to transferring a firearm.3

However, under state law, people who are not licensed gun dealers may transfer up to four firearms per calendar year without processing the sale or transfer of the firearm through a licensed gun dealer.4 Massachusetts does not explicitly require these private sellers to conduct a background check of their prospective purchasers, though a 2014 law required the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to develop a web portal through which private sellers of firearms may conduct a real-time check of the validity of a purchaser’s Firearm Identification Card and other necessary firearm purchaser licenses.5

Massachusetts law generally requires private sales and transfers of firearms (those that do not occur through a licensed gun dealer) to be reported to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services by both the seller and the purchaser. For more information, see the Maintaining Records in Massachusetts section.

With certain exceptions (including for people who transfer less than five handguns a year), Massachusetts law deems it an illegal unfair or deceptive practice to transfer a handgun while failing to comply with any local, state or federal law or regulation intended to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices, such as laws or regulations that:

  • Forbid sale to juveniles, addicts or the mentally incompetent;
  • Require sellers to keep handgun sales records;
  • Forbid sellers from delivering or transporting loaded handguns; or
  • Forbid the delivery of handguns to minors.6


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  1. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 129B; 129C; 131, 131F.[]
  2. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 122, 128.[]
  3. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 123 (Thirteenth).[]
  4. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 128A. A dealer license is also not generally required to transfer a firearm to a state or federally licensed dealer or to a historical society, museum or institutional collection that is open to the public.[]
  5. Id.[]
  6. 940 Mass. Code Regs. 16.02(1). In addition, it is generally an unfair or deceptive practice for a handgun seller to make a material misrepresentation or false certification regarding a handgun offered for transfer. 940 Mass. Code Regs. 16.02(2).[]