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Massachusetts G.L. c. 269, § 10A: Carrying a Firearm Without a License

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269, section 10 (a) governs the crime of carrying a firearm without a license. It provides as follows:

“Whoever, except as provided or exempted by statute, knowingly has in his possession; or knowingly has under his control in a vehicle; a firearm, loaded or unloaded, as defined in section one hundred and twenty-one of chapter one hundred and forty [without a license or other listed, statutory justification]… shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two and one-half years nor more than five years, or for not less than 18 months nor more than two and one-half years in a jail or house of correction.”

In order to convict a defendant of this offense, the government must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The defendant possessed a firearm or had control of a firearm in his/her vehicle. A defendant’s presence in a vehicle is not enough to satisfy this element. The government must prove that the defendant knew that the firearm was in the vehicle and had the ability and intent to control the firearm. However, the government does not have to prove that the defendant had exclusive control over the firearm. Possession of the firearm may be constructive. In order to prove constructive possession of a firearm, it must be established that the defendant had knowledge coupled with the ability to exercise dominion and control over the firearm. In constructive possession cases, a defendant’s presence alone is not enough to show knowledge or the ability to exercise control over the firearm. It is not enough to merely place a defendant and a weapon in the same car. Rather, it must be shown that a defendant had personal knowledge of the presence of firearms in a vehicle. The circumstances as a whole must show a reasonable connection between the defendant and the firearm from which knowledge of the firearm’s presence may be inferred, and that connection is particularly difficult to establish where the weapon is not in plain view.
  2. The item was a “firearm” as defined by statute. A firearm is a weapon capable of discharging or shooting a bullet that has a barrel length of less than 16 inches. “Barrel length” means the part of the firearm through which the bullet is shot or driven.
  3. The defendant knew that he/she possessed the firearm or had control of the firearm in his/her vehicle. The government does not have to prove that the defendant knew that the item met the statutory definition of a firearm.

If there is evidence that the defendant had a license to carry the firearm, the government must prove that the defendant did not have a valid license to possess the firearm outside of his or her home or office. If there is evidence that the defendant was in his or her home or office, the government must prove that the defendant was outside of his or her home or office. If there is evidence that the defendant was exempt from the licensing requirement, the government must prove that the defendant did not qualify for an exemption.

Examples: G.L. c. 269, Section 10(a)

These types of charges frequently arise in the context of traffic stops where the firearm is in plain view of the police officer. The circumstances become more ambiguous where, for example, the firearm is recovered from a purse or container in the passenger area or the console or trunk of a vehicle, especially where the defendant did not own or was borrowing the vehicle and where the firearm was not easily visible.


Common defenses include lack of possession or lack of knowledge of the presence of the gun. If the defendant did not know that he or she was in possession of the firearm, then he or she cannot be convicted of this crime.


The crime of carrying a firearm without a license is punishable by imprisonment in the state prison for at least 2 ½ years or at least 18 months in the jail or house of correction. That is the mandatory minimum sentence for this offense, though it can be punishable by up to five years in the state prison or for up to 2 ½ years in the jail or house of correction. The sentence cannot be suspended, and no one convicted of this offense will be eligible for probation, work release, parole or furlough or receive sentence deductions for good conduct until 18 months are served.

Boston, Massachusetts Gun Crimes Lawyer 617 263 6800

Attorney Stephen Neyman has been practicing criminal defense in Massachusetts for more than two decades. He has the experience and skill to get the best possible result in serious cases, including those involving firearms charges. If you have been charged with carrying a firearm, your liberty is at stake, as this is a crime involving a mandatory minimum sentence. It is crucial to contact a lawyer with expertise who will fight for your rights and future. Attorney Neyman is well known throughout Massachusetts as one the best and most aggressive criminal defense lawyers. If you are facing any criminal accusation, contact his office today by calling 617 263 6800 or by sending him an email. Consultations are free and confidential, so please do not delay when your freedom is hanging in the balance.

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