Sunday, January 27, 2013
Private sales of firearms in Massachusetts are closely regulated
First of all, the lion's share of sales at gun shows are made by licensed dealers who must run background checks on those sales on the spot. For the sales that happen between private citizens, whether at a gun show or not, there are tight controls.
Within seven days of a private sale, Form FA-10 must be filed with the state. It's the same form that licensed dealers send to the state. On that form, the buyer and seller must record their license numbers (firearms ID card or license-to-carry) and information about the firearm exchanged.
There is no requirement to run an instant background check, but here's where license monitoring comes in. As an FID card or LTC holder, a person is subject to having his/her firearms confiscated and license suspended or revoked if arrested for committing a wide range of crimes. As an example, police have the authority to confiscate weapons and suspend/revoke a license in cases of alleged domestic abuse. Even if charges are dropped, a police chief may decide that, for LTC holders, the suitability of the person to carry a firearm has been breached and a license can be revoked.
A private sale is illegal if either of the parties has a suspended or revoked licensed, or no license at all. The state police will quickly take action upon receiving an FA-10 which has a license number flagged for suspension or revocation or which fails to match the database of clean licenses.
Additionally, a seller cannot sell more than four firearms in a calendar year. That is to prevent people from becoming unlicensed dealers.
One might argue that these requirements would be ineffective for a person intent on purchasing a firearm to commit a crime. That's true, of course. A person could put a fictitious license number, name and address on the FA-10. A buyer with a suspended license could put legitimate information on the form and commit the crime within seven days. There are many ways that a person can obtain a firearm by illegal means, including purchasing one "on the street" without bothering to fill out a form. The key here is that all of these scenarios are already against the law.
Do we need to close the "gun show loophole" and require instant background checks for all sales? That will be debated this year on Beacon Hill and I'll be listening to the arguments carefully. I welcome your input.