A National Rifle Association affiliate says Massachusetts is "abusing" law-abiding citizens by delaying the issuance of firearm licenses beyond the time frame outlined by state law.
The Gun Owners Action League (GOAL), which represents 16,000 members in Massachusetts and is the official state affiliate of the NRA, reports that many people applying for licenses have been experiencing long delays.
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GOAL Executive Director Jim Wallace said the average time for obtaining a license is currently six months. That leaves many Massachusetts residents waiting much longer than the state law requires.
According to state law, an applicant will be notified within 40 days of either approval or denial of the license.
Chapter 140, Section 131 of Massachusetts' General Law states, "The licensing authority shall, within 40 days from the date of application, either approve the application and issue the license or deny the application and notify the applicant of the reason for such denial in writing; provided, however, that no such license shall be issued unless the colonel has certified, in writing, that the information available to him does not indicate that the possession of a firearm or large capacity firearm by the applicant would be in violation of state or federal law."
Wallace said GOAL now has close to 1,000 reports of long delays by residents.
GOAL said some have waited 119 days, three months, six months, and one person who applied in June is still waiting. Those who have reported delays to GOAL asked that their names be withheld for fear of reprisal from licensing authorities.
GOAL continues to gather information on those experiencing delays. The group is asking anyone who is dealing with a delay in obtaining either a License to Carry or Firearms Identification Card to fill out a form on its website.
Members are "incredibly frustrated," Wallace said. "Our licensing system is overwhelming and duplicative." He said the software being used to in the licensing process is outdated, and the state has indicated the system could be fixed next year once they obtain new software.
"Everywhere you go, in talking to legislators, the number one complaint they are getting is gun licenses," Wallace said.
"You get tired of hearing the same excuse," he said. "If they aren’t going to fix the system, shut it down. I can’t imagine a motor vehicle agency saying it would take six months to get a driver’s license."
A previous request by GOAL to Attorney General Martha Coakley for an investigation into the delays has gone unanswered.
When contacted, Coakley’s office asked for questions to be submitted by email. The Washington Free Beacon asked the attorney general for comment on the delays of nearly 1,000 Massachusetts residents’ licenses within the time frame of the state’s law and asked if she planned to investigate the matter.
"We are going to decline to comment," Coakley’s office said.
State Sen. Richard T. Moore (D., Uxbridge) criticized the current license renewal process in a statement.
"The failure of [Gov. Deval Patrick’s] administration to process firearms license renewals on a timely basis is embarrassing and grossly unfair to the many law-abiding citizens who meet all of the legal requirements," Moore said. "It places people who obey the law in jeopardy of not having a valid license when they have played by the rules and are entitled to renewal."
Moore introduced Senate Bill 1161 to deal with the license issues. The bill would require the state to process and review applications in accordance with the law or refund an applicant’s fee if the application is not reviewed within 40 days. It would also keep the License to Carry or Firearm Identification Card in place until the application is reviewed.
The bill has been referred to the state legislature’s joint committee on public safety and homeland security.
"I've joined with other legislators to provide that, unless local licensing authorities have reason to revoke a firearms license, they should be considered valid unless revoked regardless of the expiration date," Moore said.
Another bill has been introduced in the House, H.3272, which would make the License to Carry and Firearm Identification valid for life unless they are revoked or suspended. That bill has also been referred to the joint committee on public safety.
"For fifteen years Massachusetts citizens have been subject to some of the most convoluted ineffective gun laws in the country," GOAL wrote in a recent letter to the Massachusetts Legislature. "With over thirty different amendments to the original law they are no more understandable or effective. The legislature has a rare opportunity at hand to reform these worst in the nation gun laws to address the three priorities GOAL has laid out."
GOAL recommended reforming current laws to respect the civil rights of lawful gun owners; dealing with the human criminal element by means of better laws, enforcement and prosecution; and finding solutions to the mental health crisis in Massachusetts and nationally.