A recent decision by the Massachusetts Appeals Court made clear that failure of a police chief to act in a timely manner on an application for a firearms identification card (FID) does not result in an automatic grant of the FID.
Imagine that a person in your town applies to the chief of police for an FID. The person is not prohibited by law from possessing an FID, but the chief thinks he/she is an unsuitable person to have one. The chief, however, neither grants nor denies the application within 40 days (as required by statute). The chief waits 100 days and then files a petition in the District Court requesting that the Court make a finding that the person is unsuitable and deny the application. The District Court judge agrees that the person is unsuitable.
Should the person be issued the FID for failure of the chief to grant or deny the application — or file the petition in court — within 40 days, even if the District Court judge agrees that the person is unsuitable?
That was the question that the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently decided in the case of Town of Plymouth v. Power.
The Appeals Court held that the chief’s failure to make a more timely filing with the District Court did not result in a constructive grant of the license. The Appeals Court held that the District Court judge should decide the petition on the merits. It seems that rather than automatically grant a license to a potentially unsuitable (at least in the eyes of the chief) person, the Appeals Court prefers that both the chief and the applicant get their day in court.
So, what is an FID applicant to do if a chief fails to grant or deny the application in a timely manner? The remedy available to an applicant in that circumstance is to file a petition for judicial review in the District Court within 90 days after the expiration of the time limit by which the chief is required to respond.
If you need legal assistance in any matter concerning firearms licensing, please contact Daniel F. de Abreu
This article is for informational purposes and is not legal advice; for legal advice, please consult an attorney.