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Premature Celebration

The Brady Center are elated over two recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision in regards to gun rights. Two two cases are Commonwealth v. Runyan and Commonwealth v. DePina. Both cases rest a great deal of their reasoning on the fact that the Second Amendment is not incorporated against the state. In the latter DePina case, the entire Second Amendment claim would seem to rest on the lack of incorporation, and also on a related state case Commonwealth v. Davis, which gutted Massachusetts’ right to bear arms provision from its Constitution.

There is some glimmer of hope for the Brady Center though, in the Runyan case, the other leg on the Second Amendment claim was that Massachusetts safe storage law is distinct from that of the District of Colombia. The Massachusetts SJC notes:

Under this provision, an individual with a valid firearms identification card issued under G.L. c. 140, § 129C, is not obliged to secure or render inoperable a firearm while the individual carries it or while it remains otherwise under the individual’s control. A gun owner may therefore carry or keep a loaded firearm under his or her control in his or her home without securing it with a trigger lock or comparable safety device. The gun owner’s obligation to secure the firearm in accordance with the statute arises only when the firearm is stored or otherwise outside the owner’s immediate control.

That may be so, but the exception only provides for carrying or immediate control. Does that apply to sleeping with a loaded gun in your bedside drawer? It’s interesting that the SJC notes in Footnote Seven:

We note that the Court in Heller, supra at 2820, declared that its analysis should not be taken to “suggest the invalidity of laws regulating the storage of firearms to prevent accidents.” We do not, however, decide whether the defendant’s alleged violation of G.L. c. 140, § 131L (a ), could survive a motion to dismiss if the Second Amendment were made applicable to the States through incorporation under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.

To be honest, the SJC probably did us a favor by dismissing Runyan, because I don’t really like the facts of the case. Runyan came about because the mentally disturbed eighteen year old son of defendant Richard Runyan was firing a BB gun at his neighbor’s home. When police arrived, they asked the son if there were other guns in the house, which lead to the discovery of an unsecured rifle. Runyan was not home at the time. If G.L. c. 140, § 131L (a) is to be held unconstitutional, Runyan isn’t the case to do it with. The facts of the case are not good. It would be far better to pursue this claim with a defendant who was home at the time police discovered an unsecured firearm. Runyan also possessed an expired license for the rifle, as required by Massachusetts law, so that further complicates the claim. As it is, Massachusetts used to issue lifetime licenses, but later changed the law, so there are a lot of Massachusetts gun owners walking around with licenses that don’t have expiration dates on them, but are nonetheless expired because they were unaware of the change in the law.

We may have better luck going forward, but I would say this wasn’t the case, and that the Massachusetts SJC probably isn’t a favorable venue for future cases.

2 Responses to “Premature Celebration”

  1. Weer'd Beard says:

    Never realized he had a “Lifetime” FID That in itself might be a good case, as ex-post-facto law seems to come to mind. I mean if it’s a lifetime card, can you lawfully place an expiration date on it?

    And of course the bigger question, do you need to PAY MONEY to get permission to buy a long-arm, let alone a handgun.

  2. Peter says:

    Eh…the Bradys should not celebrate too much, these laws will be revisited after the McDonald decision.

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