If you are a gun owner in Massachusetts, you may have noticed that our state has many different restrictions on what firearm accessories you can use. One of these restrictions is on large capacity feeding devices, which are defined in state law. With very few exceptions, large capacity feeding devices are illegal to own. However, the rules are complicated and often change with the case law.
What is a large capacity feeding device?
The legal definition of a large capacity feeding device (LCFD) can be found in Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 121. This law explains that to qualify as a LCFD, the device must:
- Have a fixed or detachable magazine, box, drum, feed strip, or similar device
- Be capable of accepting or is readily converted to accept more than 10 rounds of ammunition or more than 5 shotgun shells
A device could also be an LCFD in Massachusetts if it qualifies as one under federal law. An exception is if the device is capable of operating only with .22 caliber ammunition. Finally, if the device doesn’t meet either definition, it is not an LCFD.
Is it illegal to possess a large capacity feeding device in Massachusetts?
In almost all cases, possessing a large capacity feeding device is illegal. Two different statutes criminalize it.
First, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 140, Section 131M says that it is illegal for a person to:
- Sell an LCFD
- Offer an LCFD for sale
- Transfer an LCFD
- Possess an LCFD
There are exceptions, but they are very limited:
- The LCFD was not otherwise lawfully possessed the on September 13, 1994
- The person has a license permitting them to possess an LCFD
- The person is possessing the LCFD as a law enforcement officer
- The person is a retired from law enforcement and is otherwise not prohibited from possessing an LCFD
If you violate this statute, you could receive a maximum fine of $10,000 and a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. A second offense bumps that up to a maximum fine of $15,000 and a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
The other statute is Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269, Section 10(m). This law also punishes the unlawful possession of a large capacity feeding device, but it is different in a few key ways.
The most important difference is that this crime has a knowledge requirement. This means that in order to be guilty of the offense the person needs to know that they possessed a LCFD. In many cases, not knowing could be a critical defense to a charge.
Another major difference between this statute and the other one is that this statute has a bigger list of exceptions. These include:
- The person is an officer, agent, or employee of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts or any state or federal employee
- The person is a member of the military
- The person is a law enforcement officer, agent, or employee of any city or town in Massachusetts
- The owner is a federal, state, or local history society, museum, or institutional collection open to the public
- The person is a licensed gunsmith under federal law
If you fall into any one of these categories, you cannot be charged with an LCFD crime under Section 10(m).
What does it mean to know you are possessing a large capacity feeding device?
Not knowing can be an essential defense to a criminal charge. In a recent unpublished Massachusetts Appeals Court case, the court explained the requirement of knowledge in more detail.
In this case, a defendant was convicted of illegal possession of a large capacity feeding device in violation of Section 10(m). His lawyer appealed the case and, after arguments, the Appeals Court determined that the conviction needed to be reversed because the government did not provide enough evidence that the accused knew his firearm’s magazine could hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
This case is a good reminder that if you are charged with a crime, it is the burden of the government to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. If they can’t do this, you must be acquitted.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH FIREARMS OFFENSE, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
CALL 781-393-5900 TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR AVAILABLE DEFENSES.