How I Spent My Constitutional Rights: Massachusetts town to require essay for carry permits

Update: The state of Massachusetts has two classes of carry permits — Class A and Class B. Neither appear to allow “open carry,” so I have amended the headline. Class A is probably the “unrestricted” license to which the Lowell Sun refers as it allows for carrying loaded weapons, while the Class B license is restricted to carrying only unloaded weapons. I have also amended the post below.


Original post follows:

If citizens in Lowell, Massachusetts want to carry a weapon in self-defense, they had better start sharpening their pencils. The city will now require anyone who wants an “unrestricted” gun license to explain in writing why they feel the need to exercise their constitutional rights publicly, with the police chief playing the role of schoolmarm in deciding who passes and who fails. On top of that, anyone wishing to carry at all must take a course that currently costs more than $1100:

The policy requires anyone seeking a license-to-carry to take a gun-safety course. Anyone applying for an unrestricted gun license must state in writing why they should receive such a license, and to provide additional documentation, such as prior military or law-enforcement service, a prior license-to-carry permit, or signed letters of recommendation.

Critics who spoke Tuesday, and who’ve blasted the policy before, made one last attempt at persuading Police Superintendent William Taylor to make it less onerous on applicants.

“I will never write an essay to get my rights as an American citizen,” resident Dan Gannon said.

Taylor did agree to work with one resident, a trained firearms-safety instructor, to help shape a training course applicants will be required to take. The trainer, Randy Breton, strongly criticized Taylor moments earlier for what he said was intentionally expensive training to dissuade anyone from applying for a gun permit.

“It’s beyond ridiculous,” Breton said of courses he looked into. One costs $1,100 over five days, and another doesn’t offer any sessions through the rest of the year in Massachusetts.


The Inquisitr’s Tara Dodrill mocks the requirement, and notes the camel’s-nose-in-the-tent dangers:

Some Second Amendment advocates wonder if the Lowell gun essay requirement to garner a concealed carry permit will one day be enhanced to mandate a written explanation to purchase a handgun, a shotgun, or popular semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15, which gun control advocates commonly refer to as an “assault rifle.”

Does spelling count on the gun essay? No one really seems to know exactly what criteria the Lowell police chief will be using when he reviews the written reports by gun owners. The gun essay will give Chief Bill Taylor “more time” to look at each concealed carry permit applicant more closely, city manager Kevin Murphy said during an interview with the Lowell Sun.

“We’re no longer taking a cookie-cutter approach to issuing firearms licenses,” Murphy added.

Instead, they’re taking a patronizing approach to gun rights. Massachusetts passed significant gun-control legislation two decades ago that already provides significant restrictions on firearm ownership in the commonwealth. This provides an insulting and arbitrary cherry on the top for the city of 110,000 residents who might have labored under the delusion that the Bill of Rights was not a government grant of privilege, but a recognition of natural law.


Will this stand up in court if challenged? Massachusetts does not have a “shall issue” permit law, which would put an end to such nonsense, so the local jurisdictions can restrict access to permits. However, they cannot make it so burdensome so as to block reasonable expression of constitutional rights. The essay may be too arbitrary, or it might not be, to a federal court — but requiring classes which cost $1100 and five solid days to complete would make for a good argument that the requirements were promulgated in bad faith from the outset. Any court case will be a crapshoot, although Lowell and Massachusetts should be nervous about those outcomes in the aftermath of Heller and McDonald.

The better option would be for citizens of Lowell and Massachusetts more generally to elect officials who don’t obsess over law-abiding citizens as dangers, and orient their priorities to targeting the criminals rather than attempting to create new ones through Byzantine regulation. Maybe they can force candidates for office and law-enforcement leadership positions to write 1000-word essays for the theme How I Will Defend Constitutional Liberty Rather Than Step All Over It.


Addendum: Hot Air has obtained exclusive video of the Lowell essay-requirement process.

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Jazz Shaw 10:01 AM on December 02, 2023