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Boston Sued Again Over Gun-Carry Permitting Delays After Losing Previous Case

Massachusetts’ largest city finds itself in the crosshairs of gun-rights advocates once more over its handling of firearms license applications.

The Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), Firearms Policy Coalition (FPC), and Commonwealth Second Amendment filed suit against Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox on Friday. The complaint, filed on behalf of four Boston residents seeking gun-carry permits, alleges that the Boston Police Department has once again implemented “substantial and untenable delays” in gun license processing.

“Previously, in 2020 and 2021, the Licensing Unit made individuals seeking licenses wait for months on a ‘wait list’ before they could submit applications—a practice it abandoned in response to a prior lawsuit by some of the Plaintiffs here,” they wrote in White v. Cox. “Now, the Licensing Unit is accepting individuals’ license applications without significant delay, but is making them wait for many months to submit samples of their fingerprints. Thus, while it has purportedly abandoned its use of a ‘wait list’ to submit applications, the Licensing Unit is still using the equivalent of a ‘wait list’ to prevent people from completing the application process.”

The lawsuit marks the second time in as many years that gun-rights groups have locked horns with the city over its handling of firearms license applications. SAF previously sued after Boston shut down all application processing during the early months of the COVID pandemic. The city was forced to pay SAF’s legal fees and begin accepting applications again as part of a settlement with the gun-rights group.

Now, with the COVID-era shutdowns of the city’s Licensing Unit largely in the rearview mirror and its application process open, plaintiffs argue the city is still trying to keep lawful applicants from getting permits without long delays. Another loss could see the city forced to give gun-rights activists another payday. It could also discourage other cities from following Boston’s lead in tackling long delays to their application processes.

SAF Executive Director Adam Kraut called the ongoing delays in Boston inexcusable.

“There is no plausible explanation for these delays,” he said in a statement. “We can only conclude the commissioner has adopted a policy or instituted a practice of delaying applications for many months, which amounts to deprivation of rights under color of law. We’re hoping the court provides a quick resolution to this practice and stops it cold.”

Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox did not respond to a request for comment.

According to the complaint, the four private citizens represented by the gun-rights groups have all submitted the required application forms, identification and training documents, and paid the $100 application fee but have yet to receive updates on the status of their permits. At least two plaintiffs stipulated that they have been waiting more than six months to complete the licensing process. Massachusetts state law currently sets a 40-day deadline for local licensing authorities to approve or deny an application once received.

The allegations of delays in the application process for gun-carry licenses arrive just as Bostonians should theoretically be more able than ever to obtain carry permits. The city issued licenses under a subjective “may-issue” regime for years. But the Supreme Court found that kind of permitting process was unconstitutional in last year’s New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen decision. That ruling prompted the Massachusetts Attorney General to direct all local licensing authorities to stop denying permits to those they deem don’t have a “good reason” to carry a gun and begin evaluating applicants on objective grounds–such as whether they’ve completed the required gun safety training and background check.

Data from the Massachusetts Firearms Records Bureau show that the number of active Licenses to Carry issued in Boston is up more than 12 percent from before the Bruen decision. The Bureau has not yet released data indicating how many applicants await their permits in 2023.

Allegations of improper delays in issuing firearms licenses have grown increasingly common in recent years, especially in major cities. Outside of Boston, activists have succeeded in getting cities like Philadelphia and Santa Clara to expedite the issuance of permits after threatening litigation. The plaintiffs in White say they hope to have similar success.

“A right delayed is a right denied,” Richard Thomson, FPC’s Vice President of Communications, said in a statement. “The Bruen decision specifically mentions lengthy gun license wait times as something that could violate the Constitution, and now we’re coming to Boston to restore its residents’ Second Amendment rights.”

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Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019


Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

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