Gun Buy Backs Illegal in Massachusetts?
Tis the season when we start hearing about all of these communities holding, so-called, gun buy backs. Aside from the normal chatter of how can the government buy back a gun it never owned, there is an honest question about them. Are they legal in Massachusetts? While always having to caveat these articles with, I am not an attorney nor do I play one on TV, there is a simple answer. No, they are not! At least as we know them.
Normally what we see in the news are people lining up with various guns to exchange them for a gift card of some sort. Usually these types of events are conducted by local groups, churches and even law enforcement. Using a statement that is often incorrectly used against lawful gun owners: I can find no law that allows this to take place.
The current law establishing a “Firearm Surrender Program” was passed as part of Chapter 180 in 1998. Section 47 of that bill to be specific. The law requires the colonel of state police, in conjunction with the secretary of the executive office of public safety, to create regulations to make the surrender program function. They did so with Commonwealth of Massachusetts Regulation (CMR) 515 CMR 3.06: Firearms Surrender Program.
This CMR specifically requires anyone wishing to surrender a firearm to directly contact law enforcement in writing or by phone. Once done, a specific time and place must be agreed on: Such persons shall make arrangements with the department regarding date, time, locations, manner, and officer who shall be receiving the firearm(s). There is nothing in the law or regulation that allows for mass turn ins or just random people showing up to turn in a firearm or exchange it for a gift.
Yet another major problem is that the law does establish protections from the other gun laws like licensing, transportation, storage, etc. But these protections only exist as long as the person surrendering the gun is complying with the regulations. Clearly, they are not in compliance and therefore not provided protection.
And wait, there is more. A lot of the pictures we see from these “buy back” are of old rifles and shotguns. Most are junk, but once in a while there are some nice ones. None of that matters because the law clearly limits the program to handguns. The law specifically states the law applies to “Firearms”. Under MGL Chapter 140, Section 121 (The definition section.) that word means handgun. The use of this term strictly limits any surrender, under this law and regulation, to a handgun. No other types of guns are allowed to be turned in under the program.
Municipalities should also be very careful about how they dispose of the firearms turned. It appears in paragraph 2 of the CMR that all of the firearms must be turned over to the state police. We had heard that some were being directly turned over to out of state companies for destruction.
The big question now is, will the government uphold the laws against itself? Don’t hold your breath.