Gould v. Morgan

Federal District Court for Massachusetts

Challenge to firearms license restrictions that prohibit the possession, carrying, or use of firearms for personal protection

Filed February 4, 2016

Gould v. O'Leary (now Gould v. Morgan)  is the third right-to-carry case brought by Comm2A against Massachusetts cities and towns.  Like our earlier cases, Davis v. Grimes and Batty v. Albertelli , Gould challenges policies in Boston and Brookline that restrict the lawful possession, use, and carrying of firearms in such a way as to deny plaintiffs the ability to use or carry a firearm for personal protection. 

Under Massachusetts law, a License to Carry Firearms is required to possess, purchase, and carry handguns and large capacity firearms. Such licenses are usually issued by a licensing authority, typically the Chief of Police, in the city or town in which a person is a resident. Additionally, state law provides police chiefs who “deem proper” the ability to place limitations on those licenses, arbitrarily limiting the license holder to firearms-related activities such as employment, target shooting, hunting, and/or sporting purposes.

Despite this discretion, few licensing authorities routinely impose restrictions when issuing a License to Carry. Of the over 41,000 Licenses to Carry issued in 2015, nearly 92% were issued without any restriction.

However, licensing authorities in the few municipalities that do issue restricted licenses appear to do so as a matter of course. In 2015, fourteen cities and towns, including Boston and Brookline, issued restricted licenses more than half of the time. The statutory requirements for License to Carry applicants, such as age, training, and criminal background, of both restricted and unrestricted licenses, are identical.  Given that Licenses to Carry are valid state-wide, there is a great disparity in similarly-situated individuals’ ability to carry firearms for their self-defense for no other reason than geography and political whims of their local police chief.

In an effort to redress this arbitrary and capricious process, Commonwealth Second Amendment has filed a third right-to-carry Federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of six individual plaintiffs.  The lawsuit alleges that the City of Boston and the Town of Brookline violated the plaintiffs’ Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms and their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection by issuing licenses with such restrictions and failing to remove them when requested.

These plaintiffs illustrate a wide range of problems common in municipalities that routinely issue restricted licenses and include: 

  • An honorably-discharged veteran of the United States Army who is barred from obtaining unrestricted license.
  • A restaurant worker denied an unrestricted license despite having to carry large amounts of cash at night.
  • A victim of theft who still is claimed not have a “proper purpose” for an unrestricted license.
  • A professional photographer who routinely transports expensive high-end photography equipment.
  • A Boston resident attending school in Missouri who wished to take advantage of that state’s law unilaterally recognizing a valid Massachusetts License to Carry.

Perhaps the most absurd example of this policy in action is that of a physician who had previously been issued an unrestricted license by the Massachusetts State Police.  After reapplying in Boston, he was informed by Boston Police that, while doctors are usually issued unrestricted licenses, he would not be issued an unrestricted License to Carry as he was not licensed to practice medicine in Massachusetts. After moving out of Boston, Boston Police refused to prematurely expire his license so he could reapply in the Massachusetts town where he now lives, a town that issues unrestricted licenses as Commonwealth municipalities normally do. 

The rights of identically-qualified License to Carry holders should not vary merely on the basis of where one’s home is relative to a municipal boundary. This case seeks to correct these arbitrary and disparate results experienced by these six plaintiffs and the nearly 27,000 restricted license holders across Massachusetts.


Comm2A and the individual plaintiffs are represented by attorneys David Jensen and Patrick M. Groulx


12/07/2017 - On December 5th the court denied our motion for summary judgement and granted the motions for summary judgement submitted by Boston and Brookline.  The court issued it's ruling very quickly and our appeal is in progress. 

The circuit split between the DC and Seventh Circuits upholding right-to-carry and the Second, Third, Fourth, and Ninth Circuits which all oppose right-to-carry leaves the First Circuit as the only circuit where right-to-carry remains an open issue, making Weng v. Evans all the more important. 

District Court History:

First Circuit History:

  • 03/05/2018 -- Brief of appellants
  • 03/12/2018 -- Brief of amici curiae Arizona and 18 other states in support of appellants
  • 03/12/2018 -- Brief of amicus curiae National Rifle Association in support of appellants
  • 05/23/2018 -- Brief of defendant-appellee Evans (Boston Police)
  • 06/06/2018 -- Brief of defendant-appellee Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • 06/08/2018 -- Brief of defendant-appellee Morgan (Brookline Police)
  • 06/13/2018 -- Brief of amicus curiae Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in support of appellees
  • 06/13/2018 -- Brief of amicus curiae Prosecutors Against Gun Violence in support of appellees
  • 06/14/2018 -- Brief of amici curiae New Jersey and 10 other states and the District of Columbia in support of appellees 
  • 06/25/2018 -- Brief of amici curiae Professors of Law and History in support of appellees 
  • 06/27/2018 -- Reply of appellants 
  • 07/25/2018 -- First Circuit Hearing - Audio
  • 11/02/2018 -- First Circuit decision 
  • 04/01/2019 -- Deadline of filing certiorari petition with the US Supreme Court

Supreme Court of the United States: