FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. F. Dennis Saylor, IV, U.S. District
H. Thompson, with whom Peter A. Patterson, John D. Ohlendorf,
Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, David D. Jensen, and David Jensen
PLLC were on brief, for appellants.
Stephen P. Halbrook, John Parker Sweeney, James W. Porter,
III, T. Sky Woodward, and Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP on
brief for National Rifle Association of America, Inc., amicus
Brnovich, Attorney General of Arizona, Oramel H. (O.H.)
Skinner, Chief of Government Accountability & Special
Litigation, Dominic E. Draye, Solicitor General, and Angela
Kebric Paton, Assistant Solicitor General, Arizona Attorney
General's Office, on brief for states of Arizona,
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana,
Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South
Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia,
Wisconsin, and Wyoming, amici curiae.
Matthew M. McGarry, Assistant Corporation Counsel, City of
Boston Law Department, with whom Peter M. Geraghty, Assistant
Corporation Counsel, Office of Legal Advisor, Boston Police
Department, was on brief, for appellee Evans.
Jonathan E. Taylor, with whom John Buchheit, Office of Town
Counsel, Deepak Gupta, and Gupta Wessler PLLC were on brief,
for appellee Morgan.
Timothy J. Casey, Assistant Attorney General, Government
Bureau, with whom Maura Healey, Attorney General, was on
brief, for appellee Massachusetts Office of the Attorney
S. Grewal, Attorney General of New Jersey, Andrew J. Bruck,
Executive Assistant Attorney General, Jeremy M. Feigenbaum,
Assistant Attorney General, Claudia Joy DeMitro and Adam D.
Klein, Deputy Attorneys General, on brief, for states of New
Jersey, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois,
Iowa, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, and Virginia, and
District of Columbia, amici curiae.
Ross Cohen, Mark C. Fleming, Tasha J. Bahal, and Wilmer
Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP on brief for Everytown for
Gun Safety, amicus curiae.
Feinberg, Shaun M. Donnelly, and Hogan Lovells U.S. LLP on
brief for various Professors of History and Constitutional
Law, amici curiae.
J. Frankel, Nandini Singh, Allison M. Whelan, Covington &
Burling LLP, J. Adam Skaggs, and Hannah Shearer on brief for
Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, amicus curiae.
Antonio J. Perez-Marques, David B. Toscano, Kevin Osowski,
Sushila Rao, Anne Burton-Walsh, and Davis Polk & Wardwell
LLP for Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, amicus curiae.
Thompson, Selya, and Kayatta, Circuit Judges.
case involves a constitutional challenge to the Massachusetts
firearms licensing statute, as implemented in the communities
of Boston and Brookline. All of the individual plaintiffs
sought and received licenses from one of those two
communities to carry firearms in public. The licenses,
though, were restricted: they allowed the plaintiffs to carry
firearms only in relation to certain specified activities but
denied them the right to carry firearms more generally.
plaintiffs say that the Massachusetts firearms licensing
statute, as implemented in Boston and Brookline, violates the
Second Amendment. The district court disagreed, and so do we.
Mindful that "the right secured by the Second Amendment
is not unlimited," District of Columbia v.
Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 626 (2008), we hold that the
challenged regime bears a substantial relationship to
important governmental interests in promoting public safety
and crime prevention without offending the plaintiffs'
Second Amendment rights. Accordingly, we affirm the district
court's entry of summary judgment for the defendants. In
the last analysis, the plaintiffs simply do not have the
right "to carry arms for any sort of confrontation"
or "for whatever purpose" they may choose.
Id. at 595, 626 (emphasis omitted).
start by rehearsing the applicable statutory and regulatory
scheme and then recount the travel of the case. In
Massachusetts, carrying a firearm in public without a license
is a crime. See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, §
10(a); see also Hightower v. City of Bos., 693 F.3d
61, 65 (1st Cir. 2012). The Massachusetts firearms licensing
statute "is part of a large regulatory scheme to promote
the public safety." Commonwealth v. Davis, 343
N.E.2d 847, 849 (Mass. 1976). Under its current incarnation,
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131, an individual may
request a license to carry a firearm in public by submitting
an application to the appropriate licensing authority, which
is defined as either the applicant's local "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; see § 131(d). Such a
license allows the holder to:
purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry: (i)
firearms, including large capacity firearms, and feeding
devices and ammunition therefor, for all lawful purposes,
subject to such restrictions relative to the possession, use
or carrying of firearms as the licensing authority deems
proper; and (ii) rifles and shotguns, including large
capacity weapons, and feeding devices and ammunition
therefor, for all lawful purposes; provided, however, that
the licensing authority may impose such restrictions relative
to the possession, use or carrying of large capacity rifles
and shotguns as it deems proper.
Id. § 131(a). For this purpose, a firearm is
defined as "a stun gun or 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.
Massachusetts statute describes the circumstances in which a
license to carry may be granted, denied, revoked, or
restricted to particular uses. See id. § 131.
Pertinently, a local licensing authority "may issue [a
license] if it appears that the applicant is not a prohibited
person . . . and that the applicant has good reason to fear
injury . . . or for any other reason, including the carrying
of firearms for use in sport or target practice only."
Id. § 131(d). An applicant is a
"prohibited person" if the licensing authority
determines, inter alia, that he is a convicted felon, that he
is younger than twenty-one years of age, or that he is
otherwise unsuitable (by reason of, say, mental illness or
involvement in domestic violence) to receive a license to
carry. Id.; see generally Chief of Police of
Worcester v. Holden, 26 N.E.3d 715, 724 (Mass. 2015)
(discussing "suitable person" standard).
the licensing authority satisfies itself that the applicant
is not a prohibited person, it may issue a license to carry
as long as "the applicant can demonstrate a 'proper
purpose' for carrying a firearm." Ruggiero v.
Police Comm'r of Bos., 464 N.E.2d 104, 107 (Mass.
App. Ct. 1984). Refined to bare essence, the statute
identifies two pillars upon which the granting of a license
to carry may rest: (1) good reason to fear injury, and (2)
other reasons (such as sport or target practice). See
id. Municipalities differ in their requirements for an
applicant to establish eligibility based on the first pillar.
Boston and Brookline have both promulgated policies requiring
that an applicant furnish some information to distinguish his
own need for self-defense from that of the general public.
This requirement - which is the focal point of the
plaintiffs' challenge - means that the applicant must
identify a specific need, that is, a need above and beyond a
generalized desire to be safe. Cf. id. at 108
(finding insufficient applicant's statement that he had
no intention of "spend[ing] his entire life behind
locked doors [and was] a potential victim of crimes against
applicant who does not demonstrate a good reason to fear
injury either to himself or to his property may still receive
a license to carry a firearm; subject, however, to such
restrictions as the licensing authority deems meet.
See Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(a), (d). The
statutory scheme vests in the licensing authority discretion
to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether and to what
extent a restricted license should be issued. See
id. Under this arrangement, a licensing authority may
issue a restricted license that permits the carrying of a
firearm only when the applicant is engaged in the particular
activities specified in his application. See
Ruggiero, 464 N.E.2d at 107 & n.5.
communities offer the same types of restricted licenses.
Boston offers licenses restricted to employment, hunting and
target practice, or sport. For its part, Brookline offers
licenses subject to restrictions for employment, hunting,
target practice, sport, transport, domestic (use only in and
around one's home), or collecting. A license restricted
to employment allows the licensee to carry a firearm for all
employment-related purposes, that is, while working and while
traveling to and from work. A license restricted to hunting
allows the licensee to carry a firearm for lawful hunting of
game and fowl. Similarly, a license restricted to sport
allows the licensee to carry a firearm while partaking in
hunting, target practice, and a wide variety of outdoor
recreational activities (such as hiking, camping, and
Boston, slightly more than forty percent of all licenses are
issued without restrictions of any kind. In Brookline, the
number shrinks to approximately thirty-five
percent. Every such license (whether or not
restricted) permits the licensee to keep and carry firearms
for personal protection in the home.
issued, a license may be revoked or suspended "upon the
occurrence of any event that would have disqualified the
holder from being issued such license or from having such
license renewed" or "if it appears that the holder
is no longer a suitable person to possess such license."
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(f). Any person
"aggrieved by a denial, revocation, suspension or
restriction placed on a license" may seek judicial
review. Id.; see Hightower, 693 F.3d at 67.
Such redress must be sought within ninety days when
challenging a denial, revocation, or suspension. See
Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131(f). In contrast, judicial
review may be sought at "any time" when challenging
a restriction. Id.
this backdrop, we turn to the particulars of the case at
hand. The individual plaintiffs (none of whom is a prohibited
person) all reside in either Boston or Brookline. In each
community, the local licensing authority is the chief of
present purposes, the firearms licensing policies of the two
communities are not materially different. Both police
departments review applications for firearms licenses
individually, giving careful attention to each applicant and
to his stated reasons for wanting a license. Each police
chief has promulgated a policy to the effect that a
generalized desire to carry a firearm for self-defense,
without more, will not constitute "good reason"
sufficient to warrant the issuance of an unrestricted
license. Instead, Boston and Brookline require an applicant
to articulate a reason to fear injury to himself or his
property that distinguishes him from the general population.
Applicants who are employed in certain vocations
(specifically, physicians, attorneys, and police officers)
are more likely to be granted unrestricted licenses in both
individual plaintiffs all sought and obtained licenses to
carry firearms, but those licenses were issued with a variety
• Plaintiff Michael Gould is a professional photographer
who lives in Brookline. In 2014, the Brookline Police
Department granted him a license to carry firearms,
restricted to employment and sport. These restrictions allow
him to carry firearms on his person at home and whenever he
is working with his high-priced photography equipment or when
engaged in a range of recreational activities.
• Plaintiffs Christopher Hart, John Stanton, Danny Weng,
and Sarah Zesch live in Boston. Each of them applied for an
unrestricted firearms license but received a restricted