Massachusetts law prohibits any person from transferring a firearm without possessing a Massachusetts firearms dealer license.1 This prohibition does not apply to an unlicensed person who transfers a firearm to a state or federally licensed dealer or to a historical society, museum or institutional collection that is open to the public.2
State law also exempts from this general prohibition unlicensed persons who transfer “not more than four” firearms in any one calendar year.3 Massachusetts does not explicitly require private sellers to conduct a background check of prospective purchasers. However, in 2014, Massachusetts enacted a law requiring the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to develop a web portal through which private sellers of firearms can conduct a real-time check of the validity of the purchaser’s Firearm Identification Card and other necessary licenses.4 For further information, please see the Licensing of Gun Purchasers/Owners section.
Massachusetts law requires private sales of firearms to be reported to the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services by both the seller and the purchaser. For more information, see the Retention of Sales / Background Checks Records section.
With certain exceptions (including for persons who transfer fewer than five handguns a year), Massachusetts law deems it an unfair or deceptive practice to transfer a handgun while failing to comply with any local, state or federal law or regulation intended to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive practices, such as laws or regulations that:
- Forbid sale to juveniles, addicts or the mentally incompetent;
- Require sellers to keep handgun sales records;
- Forbid sellers from delivering or transporting loaded handguns; or
- Forbid the delivery of handguns to minors.5
In addition, it is generally an unfair or deceptive practice for a handgun seller to make a material misrepresentation or false certification regarding a handgun offered for transfer.6
See our Universal Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.