Denial of gun license did not violate the Second Amendment, says Massachusetts high court

Chief of Police of City of Worcester v. Holden, No. SJC-11682 (Mass. Mar. 11, 2015).

Photo courtesy of Lucio Eastman

Photo courtesy of Lucio Eastman

Raymond Holden punched his wife and threw her out of the car. He was charged with assault and battery.

Massachusetts allows firearm licenses to be denied or suspended if “it appears that” the licensee “is no longer a suitable person to possess” the license. Five years after Holden’s assault on his wife, Holden applied to the Worcester police department for a firearms license. It was denied based on Holden’s domestic violence. 

Holden now argues that when the police department denied his license, it violated the Second Amendment. The Massachusetts high court disagrees. Holden also argues that the “suitable person” standard for denying or suspending a firearms license is void for vagueness. Again, the court disagrees, relying on Massachusetts precedents that define “suitable person” so as to provide guidance “to persons of common intelligence.”

The interesting wrinkle in this case is that while Holden was charged with assault and battery, he was never convicted. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, however, holds that that doesn’t make a difference; denying a firearms license doesn’t require proof beyond a reasonable doubt.