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Morin v. Leahy

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 18, 2016

ALFRED MORIN, Plaintiff,
v.
MARK K. LEAHY, in his official capacity as Northborough Chief of Police, Defendant, COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS, Intervenor Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON PLAINTIFF’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 21), THE COMMONWEALTH’S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 24), AND MARK LEAHY’S CROSS-MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NO. 29)

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN, DISTRICT JUDGE

         Alfred Morin (Plaintiff) brings a Second Amendment challenge to a Massachusetts statute that prevents the issuance of a Class A license to carry firearms to individuals who have been convicted in another state of certain firearms-related offenses. The Commonwealth has intervened as a Defendant, and all parties move for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, I find that the statute is constitutional. Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 21) is denied. The Commonwealth’s cross-motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 24) is granted. Leahy’s cross-motion for summary judgment (Docket No. 29) is granted.

         Background

         The following facts are undisputed. Alfred Morin (Plaintiff) was issued a Class A license to carry firearms in 1985 by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He held the license until it expired in 2008. Morin’s habit was to carry a loaded pistol on his person at all times, in a holster strapped to his ankle. In October of 2004, he drove from Massachusetts to Washington, DC to visit his daughter, and he carried his loaded pistol with him. He was not aware that his Massachusetts license was not recognized in the District of Columbia. While entering a Smithsonian Museum, he noticed a sign banning firearms. He approached a guard and asked if he could check his weapon. The guard contacted the police, who arrested him and charged him with carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm, and unlawful possession of ammunition. Morin pled guilty to attempting to carry a pistol without a license, in violation of D.C. Code § 22-3204(a)(1), and possession of an unregistered firearm, in violation of D.C. Code § 6-2376. He was sentenced to sixty days in prison on each count, to run concurrently, as well as three months of supervised probation and twenty hours of community service. The prison sentence was suspended.

         In February of 2008, Morin applied to renew his Class A license in Massachusetts. The renewal application form required him to indicate whether he had, “in any state or federal jurisdiction, ” been convicted of a “violation of any law regulating the use, possession, ownership, sale, transfer, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed.” (Docket No. 28-2 at 3.) Morin answered “no.” The Northborough Police Department ran a fingerprint check, discovered his convictions, and denied his license in accordance with Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(d)(ii)(D).

         Seven years later, in February of 2015, Morin submitted another application for a Class A license. This time, when asked the same question about previous firearms-related convictions, he answered “yes.” Because of these convictions, the Chief of Police, Mark Leahy, once again denied his application. The applicable statute prohibits the issuance of a Class A license to a “prohibited person, ” which includes a person who “has, in any other state or federal jurisdiction, been convicted . . . for the commission of . . . a violation of any law regulating the use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed.” Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(d)(ii)(D).

         On March 25, 2015, Morin brought this suit against Leahy in his official capacity as the Northborough Chief of Police, challenging the constitutionality of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, §§ 129B(1)(i)(D), 129B(1)(ii)(D), and 131(d)(ii)(D).[1] In August of 2015, the Commonwealth was allowed to intervene as a Defendant. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

         Standard of Review

         Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the court shall grant summary judgment if the moving party shows, based on the materials in the record, “that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Summary judgment must be denied if the evidence presented would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court construes the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and makes all reasonable inferences in favor thereof. Sensing v. Outback Steakhouse of Florida, LLC, 575 F.3d 145, 153 (1st Cir. 2009). If presented with cross-motions for summary judgment, the court “must consider each motion separately, ” applying the same standard to each motion. Reich v. John Alden Life Ins. Co., 126 F.3d 1, 6 (1st Cir. 1997).

         Discussion

         A. Massachusetts’s Firearm Licensing Scheme

         Under Massachusetts law, there are two categories of licenses to carry firearms: Class A licenses and Class B licenses. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(a), (b). Both licenses must be obtained through the “licensing authority, ” which is defined as “the chief of police or the board or officer having control of the police in a city or town, or persons authorized by them.” Id. § 121.

         Class B licenses entitle their holders to “purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry: (i) non-large capacity firearms . . . and (ii) rifles and shotguns, including large capacity rifles and shotguns . . . .” Id. § 131(b). A “Firearm” is defined as “a pistol, revolver or other weapon of any description, loaded or unloaded, from which a shot or bullet can be discharged and of which the length of the barrel or barrels is less than 16 inches or 18 inches in the case of a shotgun as originally manufactured.” Id. § 121. “Large capacity” firearms include any semi-automatic firearms “capable of accepting, or readily modifiable to accept, any detachable large capacity feeding device.” Id. A “[l]arge capacity feeding device” includes any magazine or similar item that can hold “more than ten rounds.” Id. Class B licenses “shall not entitle the holder thereof to carry or possess a loaded firearm in a concealed manner in any public way or place”; “shall not entitle the holder thereof to possess a large capacity firearm”; and are to be issued “subject to such restrictions relative to the possession, use or carrying of such firearm as the licensing authority deems proper.” Id. § 131(b).

         Class A licenses provide the same privileges as Class B licenses, except that the holder may possess “large capacity firearms” and may carry concealed firearms in public. Id. § 131(a). Class A licenses are issued “subject to such restrictions relative to the possession, use or carrying of firearms as the licensing authority deems proper.” Id. Certain categories of applicants are ineligible for Class A licenses, including persons who have, “in any other state or federal jurisdiction, been convicted . . . for the commission of . . . a violation of any law regulating the use, possession, ownership, transfer, purchase, sale, lease, rental, receipt or transportation of weapons or ammunition for which a term of imprisonment may be imposed . . . .” Id. § 131(d)(ii)(D). It was under this section that Morin was denied his Class A license in 2015, and which forms the basis of this lawsuit.

         In addition to the two classes of licenses, a licensing authority may separately issue a firearm identification (FID) card, which is more limited than either a Class A or Class B license. An FID card permits its holder to “own, transfer, or possess a firearm in his residence or place of business.” Commonwealth v. Gouse, 965 N.E.2d 774, 785 n.14 (Mass. 2012). A person may apply to the licensing authority for an FID card, and various statutory requirements and exemptions govern the issuance of these cards. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 129B(1); see Id. § 129C.

         In addition to challenging section 131(d)(ii)(D), under which Morin was denied his Class A license, Morin also challenges sections 129B(1)(i)(D) and 129B(1)(ii)(D), which govern the issuance of FID cards. However, he has not alleged that he ever applied for or was denied an FID card. Accordingly, because he has not been injured by the application of sections 129B(1)(i)(D) and 129B(1)(ii)(D), he lacks standing to challenge their constitutionality. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992); see also Hightower v. City of Boston, 693 F.3d 61, ...


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