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  1. #1

    Default Target practice on your own property - within 500 feet of neighbors/dwellings in MA

    I am looking for advice on the practical application of the MA gun law, specifically the infamous section Chapter 29, section 12E which states:

    Section 12E. Whoever discharges a firearm as defined in section one hundred and twenty-one of chapter one hundred and forty, a rifle or shotgun within five hundred feet of a dwelling or other building in use, except with the consent of the owner or legal occupant thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty nor more than one hundred dollars or by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than three months, or both. The provisions of this section shall not apply to (a) the lawful defense of life and property; (b) any law enforcement officer acting in the discharge of his duties; (c) persons using underground or indoor target or test ranges with the consent of the owner or legal occupant thereof; (d) persons using outdoor skeet, trap, target or test ranges with the consent of the owner or legal occupant of the land on which the range is established; (e) persons using shooting galleries, licensed and defined under the provisions of section fifty-six A of chapter one hundred and forty; and (f) the discharge of blank cartridges for theatrical, athletic, ceremonial, firing squad, or other purposes in accordance with section thirty-nine of chapter one hundred and forty-eight.

    My question is this. Does the language in bold give a gun-licensed property owner the right to shoot a semi-automatic weapon on their own land (backyard) at targets, even if they do not have permission from neighbors in occupied dwellings within 500' of the shooting?

    Is there a definition in the law of a "Target or test range" which implies some sort of certification for safety or design?

    Also, there are hunting regs which appears to say you cannot have a loaded weapon within 500' of an occupied dwelling. If you are shooting at targets, then does this apply? Specifically, Chapter 131, Section 58 which reads:

    Section 58. A person shall not discharge any firearm or release any arrow upon or across any state or hard surfaced highway, or within one hundred and fifty feet, of any such highway, or possess a loaded firearm or hunt by any means on the land of another within five hundred feet of any dwelling in use, except as authorized by the owner or occupant thereof.

    These seem in conflict to me. If I cannot have a loaded gun within 500' of an occupied dwelling without permission, then how can I shoot on a target range within 500' of an occupied dwelling without permission?

    Thanks. I'm trying to learn about the law so I can go about this properly.

  2. #2
    NES Member MisterHappy's Avatar
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    First, you have to make sure that there are no local ordiances WRT the discharge of firearms - some town have a complete prohibition on firearm discharge, rendering the above moot.

    Second, unless you're far, far from neighbors, or are surrounded by understanding neighbors, you'll likley have "fun".

    If you're talking Trap or Skeet, unless you're in a very rural area, going to a club is probably the best bet.

    If you provide more info as to where you're located, you might get more detailed help.

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  3. #3

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    Thanks. I'm talking about target shooting, not trap or skeet. In the woods, on my property, but near another home. As far as I know there are no town regs that will apply, so my questions are really about interpreting the state laws per my original post. By "fun", I'm assuming you mean complaints and visits from the police, etc.?

    Thank you!

  4. #4

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    How come you refer to the weapon as a semi-auto? hmmm
    "A wise man once told me: "People are strange",
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    Yeah I'm nice with the grouping, I stay at the range,
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  5. #5

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    Using a .22 is the plan. Semi and/or non-Semi .22 - Rifle or Pistol TBD. This is the proposed equipment. Nothing bigger than a .22. Sorry for the confusion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Confused resident View Post
    Thanks. I'm talking about target shooting, [ ... ] In the woods, on my property, but near another home.
    Get written permission from the owner - and the occupants - of the abutting home, verify at Town Hall and the police station that there are no town ordinances preventing it, and you're home free. And, uh, know your target and what's behind it.
    .
    Last edited by stencil; 04-10-2011 at 08:05 PM. Reason: bad quote

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    NES Member MisterHappy's Avatar
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    Yes, my caveat was in reference to a "Shots fired" call to John Law. Even if you're on your own property, make sure that there are no prohibitions that could jam you up.
    If you pull a trigger, you have to pull together.
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    If you have to ask then err on the side of caution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Confused resident
    My question is this. Does the language in bold give a gun-licensed property owner the right to shoot a semi-automatic weapon on their own land (backyard) at targets, even if they do not have permission from neighbors in occupied dwellings within 500' of the shooting?
    Possibly. However, you could get into a pissing match in court over whether a target stuck in the woods was or was not a "range".

    Quote Originally Posted by Confused resident View Post
    These seem in conflict to me. If I cannot have a loaded gun within 500' of an occupied dwelling without permission, then how can I shoot on a target range within 500' of an occupied dwelling without permission?
    The hunting law only refers to hunting (otherwise, nobody could CCW anywhere other than the deep woods), and it doesn't apply to you on your own property anyway. It's worded the way it is so that hunters illegally within the setback can't claim, "I wasn't hunting, I was just carrying this here loaded gun."

    Your best bet is to go have a polite conversation with your neighbors and explain your intentions. Bring cookies They may be cool about it, and your problem is solved. If they're not cool about it, then they'd likely have complained anyway, and you've then got to decide whether it's a battle you wish to fight.
    (Ob. IANAL)

    "Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest." -- Mahatma Gandhi

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Confused resident View Post
    As far as I know there are no town regs that will apply, so my questions are really about interpreting the state laws per my original post.
    I'm curious as to how you found out this information? I ask because I live in a small town and I can't imagine finding out any other way than personally paying the town government a visit

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