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Massachusetts G.L. c. 269, § 10(h)(1): Unlawfully Possessing a Firearm or Ammunition

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269, section 10 (h) governs the crime of unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition.

It provides as follows: “Whoever owns, possesses or transfers a firearm, rifle, shotgun or ammunition without complying with the provisions of section 129C of chapter 140 shall be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than 2 years or by a fine of not more than $500. ”

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

  1. That the defendant possessed an item;
  2. The item meets the legal definition of 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.

The Commonwealth must prove that the defendant knew that he had the item in his possession and also that he knew that the item met the common definition of a firearm. The Commonwealth is not required to prove that the defendant knew the item met the legal definition of a firearm.


The crime of unlawful possession of a firearm or ammunition is punishable by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $500. A second or subsequent conviction under this section is punishable by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.

The statute authorizes the warrantless arrest of any individual believed to be in violation of this section.


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.

These types of charges can often arise out of situations where individuals with valid firearms licenses have let those licenses lapse or expire; or an individual moves to Massachusetts from another State with firearms, and although having been licensed in that other State does not become properly licensed in Massachusetts. This circumstance may also arise where an licensed individual passes away or moves and leaves a firearm behind in a home with others who are not licensed.

In these cases, there are steps that can be taken to lawfully dispose of a firearm before one ends up facing these types of criminal charges.

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 unlawful possession of a firearm it is crucial to contact a lawyer with expertise who will fight for your rights. 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.

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