Skip to comments.Do Massachusetts Gun Laws apply to all? (Part I)
Posted on 06/22/2009 4:24:22 AM PDT by marktwain
Middlesex District Attorney Gerry LeoneThere are a few social issues in this country that, if judged by the output of so called mainstream media outlets, seem to be driven by pure emotion rather than logic and the laws of our republic. One could, I believe, argue that the top two issues falling into that category are those of abortion and gun control.
I believe that despite the constant flow of emotional rhetoric and lack of facts from these sources Americans can and will ultimately insist that logic and the law prevail, but not unlike the dreadful Dred Scott decision these things can take time to correct.
Weve already had enough discussion of how the media feeds these issues with false and misleading information, but when either the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) or a State Supreme Court decide to take up cases involving either issue its very big news indeed.
On Friday the Massachusetts Supreme Court has decided to hear an appeal (SJC will review gun lock ruling, Law at odds with US high court) of a case that may have only short-term implications and yet the complexity and implications are lost on the general public, and the so called experts at the Boston Globe, and the Boston Herald.
I say lost because the issue is a complex one and given that most of general public have an attention span of a ferret on a double-cappuccino when it comes to digesting complex issues, they can and will do their utmost to ignore the nuances that make this so important. That aside, Im going to try anyway to clearly lay this out as simply as I can.
In the DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA ET AL. v. HELLER (07-290) decided June 26, 2008 clearly ruled in favor of the long held view that you and I have an individual right to keep and bear arms. The ruling also established that requiring a firearm, available for self-defense, to be kept under lock or disassembled was also unconstitutional.
The handgun ban and the trigger-lock requirement (as applied toself-defense) violate the Second Amendment.
Similarly, the requirement that any lawful firearm in the home be disassembled or bound by a trigger lock makes it impossible for citizens to use arms for the core lawful purpose of self-defense and is hence unconstitutional. -- D.C. v. Heller, June 26, 2008
The ruling by the Supreme Court concerning firearm storage became an immediate issue in Massachusetts when Lt. Richard Bolduc of the Massachusetts State Police used the D.C. v. Heller case as his defense in a case involving his 12-year old son. One day before the Supreme Court decision, Bolducs 12-year-old son took the unloaded weapon a Sig Sauer P226 .40-caliber handgun from an unlocked bureau, brought it outside in his Sandwich neighborhood, pointed the gun at a 5-year-old girl and pulled the trigger.
Bolduc's lawyer, Daniel O'Malley, argued the charge should be dismissed based on the Supreme Court's ruling that found a Washington D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional. The ruling also said requiring trigger locks hinders a person's right to self defense. Against some local opposition, on February 21, 2009 the case was dismissed against the officer, and he was returned to full active duty. Notice that no appeal was made to the Massachusetts State Supreme Court in this case making the previous opposition columns points worth considering.
In my former role as the Norfolk County League of Sportsmens Clubs President I wrote that while I was glad the court upheld Heller, I was concerned that this was a case of special treatment and we would see what happened when an average citizen was found guilty of similar charges. Well, we didnt have to wait too long as another case was already in progress.
M.G.L. c. 140, § 131L makes it unlawful to store or keep any firearm, rifle or shotgun including, but not limited to, large capacity weapons, or machine gun in any place unless such weapon is secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device, properly engaged so as to render such weapon inoperable by any person other than the owner or other lawfully authorized.
On April 1, 2008, several months before the Heller decision, Billerica police were called to the Fernwood Road home of Richard Runyan, for a report of a BB gun shot through a window. Police found Runyans 18-year-old son, Alexander, shooting a BB gun out the window at his neighbor, William Durant. Officers seized the BB gun from Alexander, who has Down syndrome.
Alexander, who was home alone during the day, showed police his fathers bedroom where they found two other guns stored under the bed in soft g carrying cases. Officers found a 12-gauge shotgun bound by a trigger lock and an unsecured semi-automatic hunting rifle, according to police reports.
On Aug. 14, 2008 Runyan filed an instant motion to dismiss the gun charges against him based on the same defense as Lt. Richard Bolduc.
On March 5th of 2009, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone appealed the dismissal of the Runyan case to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) shortly after the case of Lt. Richard Bolduc, facing nearly identical charges, had already been dismissed. Note that no appeal has been made by Barnstable County District Attorney Michael OKeefe concerning the Bolduc case.
Why would the SJC take up this case on appeal? How would the SJC be viewed by the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts if they indeed were to rule against Runyan?
What if they rule in favor of Runyan? What, if any would be the short or long term ramifications?
Well take a deeper look into these questions in Part II.
No problem from most of the people from the People's Republic of Massachusetts because being liberal means never having to be consistent.
Both firearms owners are guilty of felony stupidity.
What reasonable adult leaves a weapon, unloaded or not, where it can be accessed by a 12 year old or a retarded 18 year old?
The Trooper is lucky they do not change this from a firearms case to a case of endangering a minor.
These are not cases for us to be proud of or draw attention to.
They used to do it all the time at Coney Island.
“What reasonable adult leaves a weapon, unloaded or not, where it can be accessed by a 12 year old or a retarded 18 year old?”
I was raised that way, and I raised my children that way.
Only about half the country does it, with no significant problems. Children learn responsibility by being given responsibility.
The police officer needs to be teaching his son proper firearms safety. If he had an Eddie Eagle course, my guess is that he would not be pointing a real gun (unloaded or not) at any other neighborhood kids. He was just lucky it was unloaded. I doubt the kid knew that.
The other case is interesting indeed as it appears to me that there are 4th amendment violations here as well. Those firearms were under his bed (i.e. not in plain sight). What right did they have to search this persons house? Certainly, the word of a retarded child cannot be enough cause for that. Never mind the Heller case, go for the illegal search and seizure. Seems more pat.
I would only make one caveat to what you said. The second case involved a child with Downs syndrome. I’m no expert on retarded kids, but I don’t think they have enough understanding to appreciate firearms safety. If I had a retarded child in my house, I think I would have my firearms locked up or have gunlocks on them. Just an opinion.
Oh, please. Don't succumb to the modern thinking that anyone under 68 is a child. A normal 12 year old should have already known for years when he can use the guns and when he can't (and who he shouldn't be pointing them at when he does). The 18 YO Down's patient is another matter. Depends on his functional level. Down's patients range from barely impaired to severe. If he's fairly severely impaired, I would probably agree with you in his case.
Bolducs 12-year-old son took the unloaded weapon a Sig Sauer P226 .40-caliber handgun from an unlocked bureau, brought it outside in his Sandwich neighborhood, pointed the gun at a 5-year-old girl and pulled the trigger.
That is why you never leave an unsecured firearm where a 12 year old can get it.
He didn't know, or didn't care, that you should never point a firearm at anything you do not want to kill. Any resourceful 12 year old can find some .40 rounds somewhere.
Never leave an unattended firearm anywhere. Mine are in an instant access gun safe or on my person 24/365.
BTW, on the issue of securing weapons, that is the NRA, ILA and GOA's firm position as well.
If an adult (or minor) points an unloaded firearm at any person, that is an assault. It may not be “ADW,’ Assault with a Deadly Weapon, but it is certainly ADI, Assault with a Dangerous Instrument. In this case, the Trooper facilitated his son assaulting the young girl.
Stupid 101, and not the kind of case we want to use to establish our point. It's a perfect “See, that's why we need gun locks” media case for the other side.
Most firearms in the country are not locked up in safes in the home of the person who owns them. Millions of teenagers have been successfully raised around firearms without a problem. There have also been numerous cases of children using firearms to defend themselves and their families.
“Safe storage laws” has reportedly resulted in at least two deaths by homicide in northern California, when the 14 year old girl that had been trained in firearms use and safety was forbidden by law from accessing the firearms necessary to protect her siblings from a madman with a pitchfork who then killed them.
I’m looking forward to Part II as well, for parochial reasons.
As a Massachusetts gun owner, I’m required to keep all firearms under lock and key, either in a gun safe or with a trigger lock. What hogwash! This gives me heartburn for several reasons.
First, I guarantee that I will not be giving permission for ANYBODY to inspect my gun storage. But can the jackboots obtain a search warrant if they SUSPECT my guns are not under lock and key? Say if my neighbor saw that rifle over my mantle and called it in?
Second, the state never offered to buy me a gun cabinet, so it escapes me how they can require one. This seems akin to an illegal taking, since I’m being required to fork over money for something I don’t want. Then again, Massachusetts also requires motorcycle helmets ... but of course.
Then again, I heard that our “new” police chief in town doesn’t the idea of civilians with concealed weapons, so his orders supposedly are that all pistol permit renewals will be for “Target Practice Only” and no longer for “All Lawful Purposes” as in the past. But I don’t have to renew for three more years, so I can put off that battle for now.
(For all you folks living outside the People’s Republic ... yes, you need a permit from the town just to OWN a pistol in Massachusetts and these permits are NOT easy to obtain!)
The Trooper did not do so in this case. You are trying to make a legal case. That's fine, make those arguments in court, but do not make a PUBLIC argument that the Trooper did no wrong when his 12 years old pointed his unsecured pistol at a 5 year-old and pulled the trigger!
We will lose that battle in the court of public opinion every time!
I’m slightly sympathetic to that point of view, but I still think it’s wrong. You accused both gun-owners of stupidity. Before posting, I rechecked your post to see that you were accusing the cop on the basis of allowing access and not failing to educate his kid. Sorry, the NRA is wrong on this (they sometimes can be found appeasing on legislation or spouting PC conventional wisdom as advice). It was done the other way without significant problems for too many generation to alledge now that it won’t work. (Now I do agree the cop IS terminally stupid, but for failing to educate, not for normal firearm storage.)