Four more towns found to be overcharging applicants

On Monday, January 15, 2008 GOAL was made aware of four other towns that are overcharging applicants for their firearm licenses. To make matters worse, at least two of these towns are requiring a doctor's letter as part of the application process. As a result, GOAL has forwarded another request for an investigation to the Massachusetts Inspector General's Office.

"We continue to find evidence that the state has no control over nor any knowledge of what their licensing agents are doing," said Jim Wallace Executive Director of Gun Owners' Action League. "Even with the mountain of evidence that we have provided the Governor's office regarding these matters, it seems he is unwilling to step forward and do what is necessary to protect the civil rights of his constituents."

GOAL urges any of our members that are being improperly treated by a licensing agent to bring the information forward so that we may continue to address these incidents.                                                                                                         

 

January 16, 2008

 

Gregory W. Sullivan, Inspector General

Office of the Inspector General

John W. McCormack State Office Building

One Ashburton Place, Room 1311          

Boston, MA 02108

 

Dear Sir,

Recently, your office investigated a complaint made by Gun Owners' Action League regarding the city of Cambridge overcharging residents for firearms licenses. We are pleased that your office has ruled in favor of our members and that the overcharging has ceased. We are concerned, however, that your office closed the case prior to ensuring that the applicants have received the refunds.

As you may recall, GOAL also requested that your office to begin an investigation to see how far this type of abuse has spread. In order to help you in this investigation, our members have informed us that this practice of charging more than the $100 fee set in statute has indeed spread.

Information posted on the Internet shows that:

·         The town of Andover is overcharging residents by $10 (see http://www.andoverps.net/police/forms/firearms_permit.html)

·         The town of Methuen is overcharging residents by $10 (see http://www.methuenpolice.com/firearms_information.htm)

·         The town of Peabody may be charging an extra $10 (see http://www.peabodypolice.org/support/armorer/)

·         The town of North Andover may be charging an extra $10 (see http://www.napd.us/firearms.html)

We are also concerned that at least two of these towns are requiring an affidavit from a physician. “Letter from the applicant’s physician stating the applicant has no medical or psychological issues that would preclude him/her from owning, carrying, or legally using a firearm.” This is a clear violation of Chapter 140, section 131(g) “The application for such license shall be made in a standard form provided by the executive director of the criminal history systems board..”.  Nothing in this section grants the authority to a licensing agent to demand anything not specifically required by the statutory standard licensing process. The affidavit would appear to be in violation of the intent of the Americans with Disabilities act, also.

We would also like to bring to your attention paragraph (k) of Chapter 140, Section 131. (k) Whoever knowingly issues a license in violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not less than $500 nor more than $1,000 or by imprisonment for not less than six months nor more than two years in a jail or house of correction, or by both such fine and imprisonment. It would appear from the evidence we continue to find that licenses are indeed being issued in clear violation of this section and that action to prosecute may be necessary.

We regret that other state agencies have been unwilling to enforce these laws and that GOAL is forced to turn to your department for assistance. Thank you for your attention to these matters and we look forward to your quick action.

 

Sincerely,

 

James L. Wallace

Executive Director

 

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Cambridge License Fee Violation Update

As GOAL members are aware, in late November our organization sent a letter to the Massachusetts Inspector General's Office asking them to investigate illegal fee overcharges by the City of Cambridge. We are pleased to announce that the Inspector General has found these overcharges to be "dubious" and  has ordered the city to cease the practice. (To view the pdf letter from the IG's office click here.)

While this is very good news that the state has stepped forward to cease the overcharging practice in this one city, there are still several issues that remain unresolved.

"Now that the city has been found to be illegally overcharging lawful citizens for their licenses, it is up to the state to ensure that those people are refunded," said Jim Wallace Executive Director of Gun Owners Action League. "The City of Cambridge is acting as a licensing agent for the state. That agent of the state has now been found to have violated the licensing laws and steps need to be taken to correct that."

To follow up, GOAL has sent the following letter to the Governor requesting that he take action to ensure that citizens are refunded and that the licensing responsibilities for the citizens of Cambridge be handed over to the State Police.

 

December 31, 2007

The Honorable Deval Patrick

Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

State House

Boston, MA 02133

 

Dear Governor Patrick,

As you may recall, back in mid-November, we sent you a copy of our request to have the Inspector General look at the policy of the city of Cambridge overcharging its citizens for firearms licenses. After an investigation, the Inspector General’s office determined that there is no statutory basis allowing a city or town to charging any fee beyond those set in statute (copies of this correspondence are enclosed).

We are pleased that the Inspector General’s Office has acted to stop the illegal overcharging. But this is only part of what now needs to be done. On behalf of the lawful gun owners of this state, we hereby request that your office do the following:

  1. Since the city of Cambridge was acting as an official licensing agent your office must ensure that all of the applicants be refunded (with penalties and interest) regardless of how many years ago it took place.

  2. Remove the licensing authority from the City of Cambridge and place the responsibility for licensing those residents in the hands of the State Police.

  3. Disciplinary action must be taken against the state’s licensing agent in the City of Cambridge.

  4. Launch a statewide investigation to determine how many other licensing agents are illegally overcharging license applicants.

Governor, this is yet another example of a state mandated licensing system which the state has no control over. We look forward to hearing from your office on this matter and your quick action to protect the civil rights of your constituents.

 

Sincerely,

James L. Wallace

Executive Director

 

The Honorable Therese Murray, Senate President

The Honorable Richard Tisei, Senate Minority Leader

The Honorable Salvatore F. DiMasi, Speaker of the House

The Honorable Brad Jones, House Minority Leader

The Honorable James Timilty, Senate Chair Public Safety and Homeland Security

The Honorable Michael Costello, House Chair Public Safety and Homeland Security

EOPS General Counsel Gregory Massing

Kelly Downs, Esq.

Cambridge legislative delegation

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GOAL Requests Mass. Inspector General to Investigate License Fee Violations

Just prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday, Gun Owners' Action sent a letter to the Massachusetts Inspector General Gregory Sullivan urging him to conduct an investigation into firearm license fee abuse. Last week it came to the attention of GOAL that the City of Cambridge was illegally charging license applicants an additional twenty dollars to process their licenses.

"This additional charge is a clear violation of state law. Sections 129B and 131 of Chapter 140 of the Massachusetts General Laws state exactly what citizens can be charged for application fees," said Jim Wallace Executive Director of GOAL. "There is nothing that grants local licensing agents any authority to attach additional fees to the licensing process, that is to be controlled at the state level. We are requesting that the Inspector General conduct an investigation into the matter. If it is found that local authorities have violated the law the state government should ensure that these practices cease immediately and that citizens be refunded their money."

This is yet another example of a statewide licensing system that is out of control. GOAL is urging all of our members that have been over charged for their license applications to document what took place and forward the information to GOAL Headquarters PO Box 567, Northboro, MA 01532

__________________________________________________________

 

November 19, 2007

 

Gregory W. Sullivan, Inspector General

Office of the Inspector General

ohn W. McCormack State Office Building

One Ashburton Place, Room 1311          

 

Boston, MA 02108

 

Dear Sir,

We are writing to request that you take prompt action to stop the City of Cambridge from overcharging for firearms licenses.

Enclosed please find a printout from the city of Cambridge Police Department website in which they indicate that they are overcharging for all licenses by $20. They are charging $120 for the Class A and Class B Licenses to Carry a Firearm, and $45 for the Restricted Firearms Identification Card.

Those fees are set by statute at $100 and $25 respectively.  Chapter 140, section 129B, paragraphs 9A and 9B, clearly indicate that the licensing fee shall be $100, and that the police department is to retain $25 of that fee.

“(9A) Except as provided in clause (9B), the fee for an application for a firearm identification card shall be $100, which shall be payable to the licensing authority and shall not be prorated or refunded in the case of revocation or denial. The licensing authority shall retain $25 of the fee; $50 of the fee shall be deposited in the General Fund; and $25 of the fee shall be deposited in the Firearms Fingerprint Identity Verification Trust Fund. ….

(9B) The application fee for a firearm identification card issued for the sole purpose of purchasing or possessing chemical mace, pepper spray or other similarly propelled liquid, gas or powder designed to temporarily incapacitate shall be $25, which shall be payable to the licensing authority and shall not be prorated or refunded in the case of revocation or denial. The licensing authority shall retain 50 per cent of the fee and the remaining portion shall be deposited in the General Fund. …”

Section 131 of that same chapter, pertaining to the License to Carry a Firearm, states:

 “The fee for the application shall be $100, which shall be payable to the licensing authority and shall not be prorated or refunded in case of revocation or denial. The licensing authority shall retain $25 of the fee; $50 of the fee shall be deposited into the general fund of the commonwealth and not less than $50,000 of the funds deposited into the General Fund shall be allocated to the Firearm Licensing Review Board, established in section 130B, for its operations and that any funds not expended by said board for its operations shall revert back to the General Fund; and $25 of the fee shall be deposited in the Firearms Fingerprint Identity Verification Trust Fund. For law enforcement officials, or local, state, or federal government entities acting on their behalf, the fee for the application shall be set at $25, which shall be payable to the licensing authority and shall not be prorated or refunded in case of revocation or denial. The licensing authority shall retain $12.50 of the fee, and $12.50 of the fee shall be deposited into the general fund of the commonwealth…”

We urge your office to take action to stop the Cambridge Police Department from abusing the public trust, and arrange to have all citizens who have overpaid the $20 reimbursed. We would also like to see any appropriate criminal charges levied.

Gun Owners’ Action League is concerned that this is not an isolated incident. We urge you to begin an investigation to see how far this type of abuse has spread.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

 

Sincerely,

James L. Wallace

Executive Director