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High court ruling impacts Massachusetts gun licensing rules

July 4, 2022 GMT

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts police chiefs should no longer deny or impose restrictions on licenses to carry a gun just because the applicant doesn’t have a “good reason” to carry, the state’s attorney general said in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Attorney General Maura Healey released guidance Friday for police chiefs in the wake of the decision overturning a gun-permitting law in New York. Under that law, New York residents needed to show proper cause, or an actual need, to carry a concealed handgun in public for self-defense.

Healey’s guidance says that Massachusetts police chiefs can still find applicants ineligible for a license if they are a “prohibited person,” or if the chief deems the person unsuitable to carry a gun because they would pose a risk to public safety.

Police can also still ask applicants their reasons for applying for a license to carry. But they can no longer deny or restrict licenses because they believe the person doesn’t have a “good reason,” according to Healey’s office.

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“Going forward, if an applicant is not a prohibited person and is not unsuitable, the applicant must be issued an unrestricted license to carry,” the guidance from Healey, a Democrat, says.

Massachusetts’ law says those deemed suitable can get a license to carry if they show “good reason to fear injury” to themselves or their property “or for any other reason,” including “for use in sport or target practice only.”

Massachusetts courts previously ruled that if someone can’t show a “good reason to fear injury,” police chiefs can put restrictions on licenses that allow them to only carry in certain circumstances.

In some communities, applicants have had to show they have a reason to fear injury that distinguishes them from the general population in order to get an unrestricted license. If they didn’t show a good reason, licenses were restricted for certain purposes, like hunting and target practice.