The Supreme Court said in Bruen that while “shall issue” concealed carry regimes are presumptively constitutional, they can still run afoul of the right to keep and bear arms if they subject applicants to inordinate fees or a prolonged wait to receive their licenses. Now the Firearms Policy Coalition, Second Amendment Foundation, Commonwealth 2A, and four individuals are putting that to the test by suing Boston, Massachusetts Police Commissioner Michael Cox over what the group is calling “substantial and untenable delays” in the police department’s processing of concealed carry applications.
As the lawsuit details, when the COVID pandemic hit in March, 2020 the department’s Licensing Division stopped processing applications and refused to accept new ones, and when it resumed operations thousands of applicants were caught in a backlog that lasted for months. SAF and Commonwealth 2A sued the police commissioner in 2021, and the case was settled through mediation, with Boston PD agreeing to catch up and work through the backlog by October of that year.
Now the plaintiffs say the department is up to its old tricks once again, forcing applicants to wait for months on end to go through the process. Here’s one example laid out in the lawsuit.
Plaintiff Leslie Good submitted an application for a LTC to the Licensing Unit on February 6, 2023, using an online portal on the Police Department’s website. She submitted a completed application form, as well as documentation of the required training and copies of her identification. She paid the $100 application fee.
Ms. Good contacted the Licensing Unit by email about two weeks later, on February 16, 2023. An employee told her that it would take “a few months” for an officer to contact her to set up an appointment to submit fingerprints because they were “very backed up.”
On June 15, 2023, Ms. Good had not heard anything further, so she again contacted the Licensing Unit by email to ask about the status of her application. She received no response. Ms. Good contacted the Licensing Unit twice more, on June 23, 2023 and July 10, 2023, but again received no response.
Ms. Good has received no further communications from the Licensing Unit. Pertinently, the Licensing Unit still has not contacted her to schedule the taking of fingerprints or an interview. As of the date of this Complaint, it has been 206 days since Ms. Good submitted her application, but Defendant has not started the state background check process, which the state will then have 30 days to complete. Ms. Good has no idea when she will be able to obtain a LTC.
Oh, I’d say her application (and those of the other named plaintiffs) have probably been moved to the top of the pile now that a lawsuit has been filed, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if those applications are swiftly approved in an attempt to moot the litigation.
Under Massachusetts law, licensing authorities “shall” (not “may”) either approve the application and issue the license or deny the application and notify the applicant of the reason for such denial in writing within 40 days of a completed application being submitted. Good has now been waiting the better part of a year for her carry permit, and SAF executive director Adam Kraut says there’s been no explanation from the commissioner about why Good and other applicants are having to twiddle their thumbs when they’re trying to exercise a fundamental civil right.
“We can only conclude the commissioner has adopted a policy or instituted a practice of delaying applications for many months, which amounts to deprivation of rights under color of law. We’re hoping the court provides a quick resolution to this practice and stops it cold.”
It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the slow-walking of the permit approvals is by design, but even if Cox claims that staffing shortages are preventing the department from approving (or even accepting) applications in a timely manner it really doesn’t matter. By forcing applicants like Leslie Good to sit on her hands when she wants to bear arms for her personal safety, the department is blithely ignoring the Bruen decision and thumbing their nose at both the Supreme Court and Boston gun owners. Let’s hope this lawsuit doesn’t just provide a quick resolution to these unconscionable delays, but puts a stop to these abuses going forward.