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  • Matthew W. Peterson

What are the Penalties for Illegal Gun Possession in Massachusetts?

Updated: Mar 13



Massachusetts has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. It's critical to get an experienced Massachusetts criminal defense attorney if you're charged with a gun or firearm offense.

What is Illegal Carrying of a Firearm in Massachusetts?

Illegal carrying of a firearm is a concurrent felony with a mandatory minimum. Under this provision (MGL ch. 269, s.10), it is illegal to carry a firearm unless:

  • You're in your home or business, or

  • You have a license

This can be either a felony or a misdemeanor. There is also a mandatory minimum of 18 months to serve if it's charged as a misdemeanor. This cannot be suspended. This section applies whether the firearm is loaded or unloaded.

What is the Punishment for Possession of a Sawed Off Shotgun or Machine Gun in Massachusetts?

Possession of an illegal firearm (machine gun or sawed off shotgun) can be punished up to life in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 18 months to serve.

What if I Possess an Unlicensed Firearm in My Home or Business?

Possession of an unlicensed firearm in your home or business is a misdemeanor in Massachusetts (MGL ch. 269, s. 10(h)(1)). It can be punished by up to two years in the House of Corrections (jail) and a $500 fine. For a second offense, the maximum fine increases to $1,000. This section also applies to illegal possession of ammunition.

What is Possession of a Shotgun or Rifle on a Public Way in Massachusetts?

Possession of a shotgun or rifle on a public way is generally a misdemeanor in Massachusetts (MGL ch. 269, s.12D).

If you have a license to carry or a firearm identification card, you are allowed to carry a shotgun or rifle on a public way. Similarly, this section does not apply if you're hunting with a valid hunting license.

Possession of an unloaded shotgun or rifle on a public way is punishable by only a fine - $100 to $1,000. Possession of a loaded shotgun or rifle on a public way can mean jail time - up to two years in the House of Corrections (jail) and a fine between $500 and $5,000.

Possession of a large capacity shotgun or rifle is a different offense. Possession of a loaded large capacity shotgun or rifle is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Possession of an unloaded large capacity shotgun or rifle along with a partially loaded large capacity loader is similarly a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Large capacity is defined as being able to accept more than 10 rounds in a semi-automatic handgun or rifle, a shotgun able to accept more than five shotgun shells. A .22 rifle does not fit under this definition.

What is Carrying a Firearm While Under the Influence in Massachusetts?

If you carry (or have in your car) a firearm while under the influence of any drug or alcohol, it is a misdemeanor in Massachusetts (MGL ch. 269, s. 10H). The offense can be punished by up to two-and-a-half years in the House of Corrections (jail) and a fine up to $5,000. This section applies even if you have a license to carry a firearm.

What is Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony in Massachusetts?

If you possess a gun while committing a felony or attempting to commit a felony, it is a separate felony charge that carries harsh consequences (MGL ch. 265, s.18B). It is punishable by a mandatory minimum of five years in prison. If it is a large capacity weapon, the mandatory minimum is ten years in prison.

Any gun charge could also be pursued federally. Furthermore, a firearms offense could have severe immigration consequences.

A gun charge in Massachusetts can have serious consequences, but you could have a defense. It's important to hire an attorney experienced in defending gun charges to help you. Contact me today, and let's get started on your defense!


My office is located in Boston, Massachusetts, but I handle criminal cases, including firearms cases, all over Massachusetts. You can reach me at 617-356-8217.

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