Brookfield, MA – March 11, 2018
On a quiet, sunny Sunday afternoon in mid-March, the Brookfield Inn Bed & Breakfast opened it’s hearth room to a public conversation with Brookfield Police Chief Michael Blanchard. About 50 residents participated in a two-hour Q&A exchange covering topical issues on guns, gun laws and school safety in Massachusetts.
According to Chief Blanchard, Massachusetts has the strictest gun laws in the nation on who can carry, how to purchase and issuance of gun licenses. He said, “I am very confident in the laws in MA. The rest of the country can do a lot by coming up to our standards.” Gun related deaths, are some of the lowest in the nation with 3.13 per 100,000 due to suicide or accidental discharge of a fire arm. The homicide rate of gun deaths is 1.9 per 100,000. The CDC reported 213 firearm deaths in Massachusetts in 2015. Gun licensing is on the rise in the state with a 66% increase since 2010. Approximately 1 in 14 people own a gun in Massachusetts. In 2016, gun licensing rose another 7%.
Local police have control of who is issued a gun permit. The Chief continued, “however, there are some things that can be improved, especially how mental health concerns are made known to local law enforcement.” Information on a person that is confined for 72 hour emergency restraint and hospitalization because they threatened to harm themself or others is not available (MGL Chapter 123 Section 12), Chief Blanchard said “if the incident occurred in North Adams, it is not a searchable record for law enforcement. This information can help in the determination of suitability to issue a firearms license. He said this area could be tightened up.”
Concern about gun violence at schools was addressed. The Chief said, “It is mandatory that public schools have four fire drills per school year. It is not mandatory to hold active shooter drills at this time.” Local law enforcement is proactive in training teachers, staff, students and parents on what to do in the event of an incident of gun violence. The Chief said “I would be a fool if I stood up here and said it is never going to happen here. This can happen anywhere. That is why we conduct ALICE drills, to minimize the number of casualties. Somebody is going to die. Our job is to prevent casualties. Being prepared as possible is the best way.” ALICE an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate is the training technique often used for public school safety. One question was asked about arming teachers in schools. The Chief said, “if the problem is guns, people who want to add guns to the situation. I don’t think that’s a good idea at this time. I don’t see that as a solution.”
Blanchard explained the steps necessary for residents wanting to legally have a gun. The first is to attend a Massachusetts Firearm Safety Class certified by both the NRA and MA State Police. Not only will residents learn about the laws and consequences of possessing firearms, but how to safely store guns in the home. There are two permits issued by local police. A License to Carry (LTC), commonly called a pistol permit for a hand and long gun. The second permit is a Firearms Identification Card (FID) for a long gun only (rifle or shotgun).
No matter what type of permit is being sought, the applicant must apply to their local police station. A background check will be run as well as an in-house investigation to determine the suitability of issuance. The police chief or sergeant will conduct a personal interview and may check references. The applicant will receive an answer in 40 days. If denied, the applicant can appeal it to a judge with a decision made in 90 days. Both an FID and LTC expire in six years.
Residents must be 15 or older to apply for a FID with parental permission. However, long guns cannot be legally sold to anyone under 18. The MA.gov website page on Gun Ownership says, “By state law, anyone 18 years of age or older must have a government issued Basic Hunter Education certificate, from any jurisdiction, in order to qualify for their first ever hunting or sporting license in Massachusetts.” The courses are offered at MassWildlife Offices throughout the commonwealth.
Major gun retailers in Massachusetts such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cabelas or Bass Pro Shops will not allow anyone to examine a gun without having the TLC or FID in hand. Blanchard stated, “Dick’s Sporting Goods will not sell a long gun to anyone under 21.”
Gun laws are complex. Any gun that leaves one pair of hands and is transferred to another must be reported in Massachusetts. If the gun was bought at a private sale, gun show or out of state, the owner must report the transaction. If the gun is inherited, stolen or lost, it must also be reported. Massachusetts law requires all gun owners to report ALL private sales, transfers, and surrenders of firearms via the Massachusetts Gun Transaction Portal. The Massachusetts Firearms Records Bureau catalogues the make, model, serial number and caliber of the gun. The seller and buyer information are recorded. It is unlawful to transfer a gun from an unlicensed owner. This creates a searchable data base for law enforcement to trace the movement of guns.
The public meeting was organized by Brookfield Indivisible. Chair, Trudy O’Connell, said the purpose was to educate residents about the facts of gun laws in Massachusetts. The Brookfield Inn, owned by Paul and Melissa Puliafico is located at 8 West Main Street (Route 9) near the Town Common in Brookfield MA
Published in Citizen Chronicle March 13, 2018 – Blanchard: More states should match Bay State gun laws