"Gun owners are complaining that local police chiefs have too much leeway in considering applications for the state's concealed weapons license, creating a frustrating patchwork of gun regulations that vary from town to town.
In a letter to the state attorney general's office, gun owners say that police chiefs throw up roadblocks that are unnecessary, and possibly illegal, for gun owners to obtain a Class A license that allows the holder to carry a concealed handgun or own rifles with a large capacity for ammunition.
"You don't know what you are going to get into with your local police chief," said Daniel S. Noreck, a 59-year-old electrical engineer from Mansfield.
Noreck said he was required to supply two letters of reference when he renewed his license in Mansfield. That was not required in the town in which he lived before, where he received his original license.
To get a Class A license, state law says an applicant must be 21, a US citizen, and never convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor with a sentence longer than two years. Applicants must also complete a firearms safety course. The license is good for six years.
But the law also gives municipalities and local police chiefs broad discretion to force applicants to meet other requirements.
For example, communities such as Easton, Mansfield, Sharon, Walpole, and Worcester require two or three letters of reference for certain kinds of licenses. Braintree requires five. Brookline requires licensed owners to pass a gun certification test when they renew their licenses every six years. Boston requires membership in a gun club. Andover requires a note from a doctor.
"There are 351 different standards for getting a gun license," said Ken Sherman, a Navy veteran and gun owner for 40 years who decided not to move from North Grafton to Falmouth a few years ago when he learned that he might not be able to renew his license. "It is what each chief wants."
For their part, local chiefs shrug off the complaints. Their requirements are legal and it's good that local communities have some control over who is armed, they say.
In Braintree, Chief Paul H. Frazier said he has had few complaints - maybe six over 15 years. The requirement for five letters of reference has been in place for about 20 years."Not all communities are the same," said Falmouth Chief Anthony J. Riello, who is president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. "Braintree is different from Falmouth, Pittsfield is different from Braintree and Falmouth."
John Rosenthal, founder of the nonprofit group Stop Handgun Violence, said he is happy with the way the Class A restrictions work.
"We make it at least a little bit harder for criminals and terrorists to get guns, and we have the lowest firearm fatality rate in the nation, second only to Hawaii. Gun laws work in this state."
Some chiefs are frank about being tough in handing out licenses.
"There has to be a need before I'm going to be giving you a license to carry with no restrictions," said Quincy Chief Robert F. Crowley. The problem with some gun organizations, said Crowley, is that they want Massachusetts to issue licenses to anyone who is not explicitly disqualified.
"I think that is insanity."And shame on the good (?) citizens of Massachusetts for giving positions of authority to traitorous little dictators such as Chief Crowley and his brotherhood of law breakers. Then again, any dump that would hire a killer like Ted Kennedy for all these years probably deserves what it gets. And if all of these "restrictions" are so bloody effective, then why are there MORE criminal acts committed with guns now than BEFORE the infamous '68 gun control act?