Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

District Court Judge in Massachusetts Says Carrying Guns Across State Lines Is Okay

Back in August of 2023, a District Court Judge in Massachusetts made a surprising decision. In a case that revolved around a New Hampshire man who attempted to carry a firearm without a proper license in Massachusetts, the judge dismissed the charges. Why? According to him, the state’s requirement that non-residents obtain temporary carry licenses is unconstitutional. While this case is notable, it’s important not to read too much into it. 

The Second Amendment Trumps Other Individually Held Rights

Judge Coffey wrote that a person cannot lose their right to bear arms under the Second Amendment simply by traveling into a different state. Anything else, the judge argued, would mean that an individual’s Second Amendment rights are handled differently compared to other rights. 

Back in June of 2022, the Supreme Court made a similar landmark decision in New York. These decisions seem to suggest that bringing a weapon across state lines is inherently acceptable under the Constitution – although it is important to remember that the Massachusetts decision was only issued by a District Court. As a result, it does not “set a precedent” in the same way as a Supreme Court decision.

Nonetheless, this is part of an apparent trend toward what some call “national reciprocity” – the idea that every US citizen has the right to travel across all 50 states while carrying firearms in public. Note that the penalties for carrying firearms across state lines without proper permits can be quite severe. The aforementioned New Hampshire resident was facing 18 months in prison for his offense. 

This decision also involves the distinction between a “privilege” to bear arms and a “right” to bear arms. The Supreme Court decision in June of 2022 established that the constitutional right to bear arms is a right and not a privilege – and the court used the term “second-class right” in this context. This suggests that Second Amendment rights should be prioritized over other rights - which is exactly what Judge Coffey was getting at when he made his 2023 decision. 

Does This Decision Even Matter?

While this decision is interesting, it does not serve as a precedent – at least not yet. The Commonwealth has already filed an appeal – and this means that it could eventually become a precedent at a later date. Specifically, the Court of Appeals may issue a decision – or it might even go to the Supreme Judicial Court for review. When and if this happens, Coffey’s decision could very well set a precedent – pushing gun rights even further across the entire nation. 

Get in Touch With a Firearms Defense Attorney Today

If you are facing charges for carrying a firearm across state lines, consider booking a consultation with a qualified defense attorney in Massachusetts. With help from Edward R. Modlari, you can push back against excessive penalties and fight for your Second Amendment rights. Book your consultation today to get started with an effective defense strategy.