Michael Hartwell is a staff reporter for the Sentinel and Enterprise of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Having grown up shooting in Maine and having been threatened more than once as a result of his articles, he decided to apply for his Massachusetts Firearms ID (FID) card and also to get his Class A carry permit.
What clinched it, however, was the way I felt during the manhunt for the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. I didn’t feel safe in Leominster, which is less than an hour’s drive away from where the suspect was last seen.
Earlier this month, it occurred to me that as a reporter and a Massachusetts resident, I’m in the perfect position to see what impact the state’s gun-control laws would have on someone with a clean record who simply wants to exercise their legal rights.
A reporter seeking to exercise his or her rights to purchase a firearm and detailing the difficulties isn’t a new story. Emily Miller of the Washington Times detailed her tortuous path to handgun ownership in the series called “Emily Gets Her Gun”. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the path and the obstacles that Hartwell has to overcome in seeking to get his FID and Class A carry permit.
So far it is a three-part series. The first details his decision to get the FID and Class A carry permit, the second details his training class, and now the third article details the wait times and growth in demand in his town of Leominster.
I live in a shall-issue state so I am somewhat bewildered by the complexity of the process in a may-issue state like Massachusetts. The other thing that has struck me is just how much things can vary by town in terms of who gets a permit, what type of permit, and how long they have to wait to obtain it.
For example if you are a resident in the town of Fitchburg, the local police chief essentially makes you go through a multi-year apprenticeship in order to get your Class A carry permit.
Fitchburg Police Chief Robert DeMoura said the overwhelming majority of applicants pass because people with felony convictions know they would fail and rarely apply. DeMoura said he denies concealed-weapon permits to new shooters 90 percent of the time.
“I will give them a target and hunting permit,” said DeMoura. “First and foremost, they just went through a one-day course about firearms, and I just don’t feel that they’ve had enough time to be around a weapon to be able to carry a concealed weapon. My philosophy is that the state law says I have to give them a permit if they qualify — they don’t tell me what kind of permit, but I have to give them a permit. Most of the time I give them a target-hunting (permit).”
He said he makes exceptions if someone needs a license to carry for their job, such as a security officer. As the chief of an urban area, DeMoura said most applicants did not grow up around guns, but he would take into consideration if an applicant has a history of handling firearms.
If someone has had a standard FID card for a year, DeMoura said he is willing to upgrade it to a concealed-weapons permit.
Hartwell, fortunately enough, lives in Leominster.
Still, he has to wait. The next opening for an appointment to submit his application to the firearms licensing clerk there is July 2nd. If he lived in the town of Richmond in western Massachusetts, he could just walk in without an appointment every other Wednesday evening when the Richmond police chief holds office hours. Moreover, the chief himself handles the application.
I certainly have a greater appreciation for how good I have it here in North Carolina and an even greater admiration for people like JayG and Weerd who have taken on the system and gotten their permits.