The Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, and outlines the protection of the people’s right to keep and bear Arms. Over the years, the rate of gun possession and ownership has greatly increased due to increasing crime rates, expanding population, and people’s own desire to protect themselves and their property from foreign and domestic enemies. Today, not only police officers but virtually all Americans may possess a handgun for home protection. The simple fact that more people are carrying firearms has lead to the wide variety of laws and provisions outlining and policing guns. In Massachusetts, laws exist to require individuals to obtain a license before purchasing firearms and ammunition. In order to apply for a license, an applicant must first have passed a State approved firearm safety course. Even licensed firearm owners still have to be careful when carrying their weapon, as the tightly worded and strictly adhered to laws regarding guns have led to the increase in arrests for offenses such as improper storage of a gun, threatening another by displaying your gun- assault with a dangerous weapon, and other related crimes. Even with a valid license, many places restrict the carrying of firearms such as state and federal building, post offices, nightclubs, and sports stadiums.
For instance, a Quincy man was arrested June 27, 2012 after he stashed his firearm in the bushes outside a nightclub. The police arrested him for Improper Firearm Storage (Chapter 140, section 131L) and Carrying a Firearm while Intoxicated (Chapter 269, section 10H). A few months earlier in March, a Connecticut man was arrested and charged with Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm, Carrying a Firearm under the Influence, Interfering with an Officer, and Second degree breach of peace after he fired a gun in his yard. On July 8th, a Natick man was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs, resisting arrest, carrying a dangerous weapon (spring-loaded knife), improper use of a vehicle and possession of a Class E substance. To evidence the extent to which gun laws are enforced, an off duty police officer was arrested and charged with murder, as well as gun and great bodily injury charges. Sheriff’s Deputy Dayle Long, a 10-year veteran, is awaiting arraignment after allegedly shooting a patron in a bar.
One of the common themes of these arrests has been the crime of Carrying a Firearm Under the Influence. In an effort to ensure safety of gun owners and the community at large, the Commonwealth makes it is a crime to carry a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol under M.G.L. c. 269, § 10(h). This law applies whether you are an ordinary citizen or a police officer, and even if you are licensed to carry the weapon. This provision, however, does not prohibit a licensed individual under the influence from transporting an unloaded firearm in the locked trunk of his or her motor vehicle, unless the individual is over the legal limit of 0.08%, in which case it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle with or without the existence of a firearm. Unlike the law regarding operating under the influence (OUI), this charge does not define what constitutes being “under the influence.” Regardless, this criminal offense is a felony and a conviction is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2.5 years, or both such fine and imprisonment.
Licensed gun owners have an awesome responsibility when it comes to ensuring that they keep their firearms safe and that they act in an appropriate manner while they are exercising their right to carry. If you or someone you know has been charged with a firearm offense such as Carrying a Firearm Under the Influence, it is essential that you speak to a qualified Massachusetts firearms defense attorney that is prepared to vigorously enforce your constitutional gun rights. While this crime is a misdemeanor, a conviction can have serious unwanted repercussions including loss of your gun license, probation, fines and even imprisonment. There may be many defenses available depending on the facts of your case and Attorney Patrick Murphy will be able to assess your case and formulate the appropriate legal response to successfully defend the charges.