Court to Texans: Leave your AK-47s at home if you come to Massachusetts

The Supreme Judicial Court today upheld a Texas native's conviction for illegal possession of an assault weapon and illegal possession of another gun, ruling that the Second Amendment still gives Massachusetts the right to ban assault weapons and regulate ownership of other guns.

At issue were the "AK-47-style pistol," four 30-round magazines and a 9-mm pistol that had been modified to hold up to 20 rounds that John Cassidy brought up here with him in 2010 after he enrolled at the University of Massachusetts Law School in Dartmouth. Cassidy obtained copies of Massachusetts gun-registration forms but never filed them, saying the fees were too expensive for him. He also cited Texas law, which let him walk around with the weapons - something he legally might not have been able to do here with the AK-47 pistol, in any case, since it's classified as an "assault weapon" banned under Massachusetts state law.

Cassidy was arrested in March, 2011 on seven counts: Illegal possession of an assault weapon, illegal possession of a gun, illegal possession of four high-capacity feeding devices and illegal possession of ammunition, after Dartmouth police obtained a search warrant for the apartment he shared with another law student.

The defendant testified in his own defense. He said that the firearms were his, he had been hunting since he was eight years old, he purchased the firearms legally in Texas and brought them with him when he started law school, and he had not applied for a license or FID card after his arrival in Massachusetts.

Cassidy made several arguments for overturning his conviction: He said prosecutors failed to proved that he "knowingly possessed a large capacity firearm and large capacity feeding devices," that state gun laws are "unconstitutionally vague" because they are "too complex to be understood and are enforced arbitrarily," that the Second Amendment gives him the right to bear arms and that Massachusetts prosecutors and judges don't understand the Massachusetts constitution because the equivalent gun section of the state constitution should be interpreted to mean "individual" gun rights, not "collective" gun rights.

The state's highest court rejected all his arguments.

The jury concluded that Cassidy knew that both weapons could hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition - the Massachusetts definition of "high capacity" - and cited a 2000 gun ruling that essentially said ignorance was no defense.

Given the defendant's testimony about purchasing, loading, and shooting the two firearms; the manner in which he kept the AK-47-style pistol with its magazine unloaded; the manner in which he kept the nine millimeter pistol partially loaded (to save the spring from wear), but locked (for safety and accessibility); and the obvious large size of the thirty-round "banana-style" magazines and the after-market magazine, the jury reasonably could have inferred that the defendant was aware that the magazines held more than ten rounds of ammunition.

The court tied the ignorance issue into its discussion of whether our gun laws are too vague:

The statutes challenged by the defendant clearly indicate what is required of individuals who wish to possess firearms legally in the Commonwealth. The defendant testified that he was aware before his arrest that Massachusetts required registration of firearms, and that he had not registered either of his weapons because of the cost. In some circumstances, the Supreme Court has concluded that ignorance of the law may be a defense, where proscribed conduct is completely passive and a defendant has no reason to know of the requirements of the law. See Lambert v. California, 355 U.S. 225, 228-230 (1957) (holding that defendant could not be convicted of violating felon registration ordinance by virtue of her mere presence in city). Such a claim is unrelated to a facial vagueness challenge, and does not appropriately describe the defendant's conduct here. The defendant's vagueness claim therefore fails.

The right to bear arms? The court noted that even in the Heller decision, which outlawed a particularly strict gun-control law in Washington, DC, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment, like all other amendments, is not absolute and that states and localities were allowed to continue to regulate guns as long as they do not interfere with a person's right to self defense - and that there is no mistake in how Massachusetts courts have interpreted the section of the Massachusetts constitution that deals with the right to bear arms.

The assault weapon statute under which the defendant was convicted, G. L. c. 140, § 131M, also is not prohibited by the Second Amendment, because the right "does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes." Heller, 554 U.S. at 625. The Second Amendment does not grant "a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose."

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Comments

Massachusetts has the lowest

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Massachusetts has the lowest gun death rate in the country. The gun death rate in Texas is 3.5X higher. Gun control saves lives. Those are the facts.

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Texas also has about 5 times

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Texas also has about 5 times the population of Massachusetts. Those are the facts. Ask the families of the 2 people killed in JP what they think about your facts

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You'll discover

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that Mass rate of firearms misuse per firearms ownership is middle of the pack.

Texas may have a 3.5x higher rate of firearms misuse but it has more than a 3.5x rate of firearms ownership. Mass laws are no better at screening out bad actors than Texas laws are.

Value of self defense?

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Seriously?

Paranoia much?

Do you shoot under your bed five times before going to sleep just in case?

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Yeah, seriously

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1. Yeah, seriously.
2. Not really.
3. I don't have to because I'm a pretty likable guy in person, don't make enemies IRL who might hide under my bed to kill me, and I make enough money to live in a safe neighborhood. Not everyone lives in similarly happy circumstances, and many people who don't don't through no fault of their own. They're allowed to defend themselves too.

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Ban?

We don't ban automobiles. But we do require licensing, license tests, insurance, registration, and mandatory safety features like seat belts, crumple zones, and air bags.

Some people say that those policies reduce both automobile misuse and automobile deaths. The rate of fatal injury per mile traveled has dropped by more than half since the sixties and seventies.

I know I've heard a lot of people propose that guns be regulated and insured similarly to the way cars are. Do you think that might work the way it does with cars?

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Yes it does

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In just about every state of the union, now that even Vermont requires licensing. Even Texas makes you pass a safety course and a range test before they issue you a license to carry a gun.

That sounds like a great start!

Now add multiple required safety features for all consumer guns, like we have for cars, registration of all guns, like we have for cars, inspection of all guns on a yearly basis, like for cars, required insurance for all guns that covers the people who might be injured with those guns, like we have for cars...

Do you think car ownership, use, and harm therefrom would work differently if all you had to do was get a license to drive once in your life and then you could buy, sell, and drive around any old thing you found at a flea market?

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Disingenuous

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Nearly all car insurance claims are for fender benders and stuff that happens to your car caused by other people being careless and acts of god like trees falling down on them in storms.

Annual inspections are required because cars cars have a whole hell of a lot of moving parts and complex systems that are necessary for the car to be operated safely. Guns don't. A gun needs exactly one moving part to function properly. Everything else is just window dressing that has next to zero affect on its safe operation. And the fact that no one would buy guns that explode in your hands takes care of things that do have any affect on the safe operation of a gun.

Furthermore, if you don't operate a car on public roadways, the requirements largely don't apply. You can have a car with no seat belts, no mirrors, no lights, no seats, and running on red-dyed fuel so long as you do it on private property.

Registration? See above. A car that's not taken out and used on public roads doesn't need to be registered. You can tow it on a trailer anywhere you want without having to register it.

And you know what? By and large people do take a single drivers license test and then get to drive for life. Sometimes you get spot-checks for vision as you get older. Some states and Canadian provinces are beginning to require re-tests for older drivers (like past 70). But by and large renewals are rubber-stamped unless you get caught driving drunk or habitually disregarding other traffic laws.

Sorry dude. Bull. Shit. Your advocacy for policies that would bog us down with needless hoops to jump through, bog down law enforcement with an regulation enforcement nightmare, and do nothing to combat people who don't feel like obeying the laws at all speaks only to your own moral narcissism.

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When it comes to being "disingenuous"

I got bingo off of this comment alone. You are the reigning king of it.

You are now using words that people use to describe your posts, but you either don't seem to know what they mean or you apply them superficially like makeup,

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That's right Swirly

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You're so smart and righteous that even the words of the English language are at your beck and call. You can accuse and harangue away, but when an argument turns against you, the very words your opponent uses become illegitimate since they were used against you and not by you.

All Hail Queen Swirly! Long may she reign!

Uh huh

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You or one of your compatriots is going to accuse me of being childish or being an actual child no matter what I say if the thing I said did not originate first as a thought in your heads. That makes it background noise. Would you care to contribute some actual signal?

"Needless hoops to jump through"?

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if you don't operate a car on public roadways
A car that's not taken out and used on public roads doesn't need to be registered

Because it's not a public safety issue. The same is not true of firearms.

You're completely against the regulations already proposed, so I suppose there's no use in mentioning product liability. That'll just send you into another irrelevant tizzy in another attempt to derail the discussion.

Sorry dude. Bull. Shit.

Just what I thought when reading your comment. Talk about "moral narcissism" - have you looked in a mirror lately?

Vermont DOESN'T require

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Vermont DOESN'T require licensing even with the restrictions recently voted in there in response to a hoax (judge dismissed the case against the punk).

Every state north of the MA border is Constitutional Carry and has a lower crime rate per capita than MA. If lax laws resulted in higher crime that it would be a bloodbath up there and it isn't. MA's crime rate has more to do with economics and demographics. The Commonwealth has far less of a gang and concentrated poverty problem than almost every other state in the union.

In other words

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Guns are inherently dangerous!

And where there are fewer guns, there are fewer deaths from guns.

Amazing way to support opposition to having guns everywhere.

Could make the same argument about cars, too.

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The murder by firearm rate disagrees with you

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But out of curiosity, what would "rate of firearms misuse" entail? Shooting a weapon in the air? Not checking to see if there is a round in the chamber after unloading? Failure to use a trigger lock?

Seriously, I'd love to see a technical definition and the stats you cite.

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No, it would be

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Gun murder rate divided by gun ownership rate. Basically the probability that a gun owner drawn at random will use that gun to unlawfully kill someone.

So

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It discounts the illegal ownership of guns?

I suppose it would

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But no one's arguing against keeping guns away from people who think shooting into a crowd of 15 people is a perfectly legitimate way to spend an evening.

Oh, okay

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The total murder rate being far lower in places without guns doesn't count in that "equation".

Once again, doing math is not the same as getting meaningful answers. Too many nerds here for you to bullshit with your party tricks.

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Skip G

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I've survived living in Chicago and then Boston for the past 20 years of my life without a gun. I must be a superhero... not. Go fck yourself, gun fetishist.

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Skip G...

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...rade 4 math class, apparently

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yet criminals in Mass go free until they kill

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Tell the mom's that marched this past weekend they're the safest in the nation.

They know that Massachusetts ranks 19th in lowest murder rate by firearm.

see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firearm_death_rates_in_the_United_States_b...

Only when you rig the stats combining firearm murder, accidents and suicides does Mass rank lowest. Only people aren't killing themselves in Boston or injuring themselves--they're shooting each other.

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Right

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If you include the things you want and don't include the things you don't want, the numbers look exactly the way you want. In what universe are people who shoot themselves with a gun not part of a "gun death rate"?

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agree, be transparent with stats

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>If you include the things you want and don't include the things you don't want, the numbers look exactly the way you want.

I agree completely, which is why I suggest NOT lumping together suicide, accident and crime statistics. It's far more logical and easier to understand if you compare each separately state by state.

Mass has a very real problem with GUN CRIME, particularly murder in cities like Boston. To claim everything if glorious because of low suicides and accidents is grossly misleading.

Moreover, when you look at the history of those committing murder, the vast majority have a long criminal history--so gun laws working? I don't think so!

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They should be lumped together

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They are all the result of having GUNS around.

Suicide by gun happens because of ... GUNS being handy makes it easy!

Toddlers shoot each other and their parents because ... GUNS are handy!

People murder each other with GUNS because GUNS are handy!

Shall I go on?

wrong

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>People murder each other with GUNS because GUNS are handy!

not true. VT and NH have higher gun ownership than Mass and far fewer gun murders.

Criminals murder people. Mass has more crime, lax enforcement and prosecution.

I can see why you're confused

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I can see why you're confused--you think someone that would give a baby access to a gun would only NOT do that if someone passed a law.

in reality, the majority of gun deaths in Mass are committed in the streets by criminals

Massachusetts has a problem of deaths by firearm

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Far too many of our residents die due to firearms. Some shot by others, some shot intentionally by themselves, some fired accidentally.

We should work to reduce all three of the sub-categories.

I dunno

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Look, murder is a horrible thing, but since Kinopio was comparing gun death rates in Massachusetts and Texas, with those two numbers Massachusetts does not have a relative problem. Yes, his stats are conflated, meaning "five times" is a misleading claim, but the gun murder rate in Texas is still much higher than Massachusetts' rate.

Of course, neither side of the gun debate wants to look at why there are differences between gun murder rates in different states. But the numbers are out there. Massachusetts is safer than Texas when it comes to gun murders.

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Mack,

Are people who die from gun suicide or accident somehow less dead than people killed in gun crime? Of what worth is the distinction you're trying to draw? Do you expect the families of the deceased to shrug and say "At least it wasn't a gun crime, we feel much better"?

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gun violence

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My concern is the claims ignore the very real gun violence crisis in our city right now.

"Gun violence"

Violence is what happens every time a gun discharges. It doesn't matter whether the discharge happens in association with a crime; if there's a person in the path of the violently launched bullet, that person will be damaged or killed. Neither the gun, nor the bullet, nor the victim gives a shit whether there was a crime in progress. Except for Dick Cheney's friend, of course.

Here we go

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The distinction is made because we're talking about restricting the rights of everyone based on the misbehavior of a small number of people who cannot responsibly wield those rights. The case for imposing that restriction is stronger if the misuse harms people other than the one perpetrating the misuse.

To make an analogy that gun grabbers may appreciate: we do not ban sharp kitchen knives because people hurt themselves, but we do restrict the sizes and types of knives people may carry in public because people who carry knives in public can and do harm others when they misuse their knives. Thus, restrictions on ownership and carrying of firearms ought to be predicated more on the harm that misuse can cause to others than on harm that can be caused to the firearm owner.

DC is a bit of an outlier

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DC is a bit of an outlier though. I wouldn't try to base your argument on that alone. Remember that DC is a district, not a state, and congress gets a say in how DC runs things. Also, DC is only a city, so it doesn't get to cushion its stats with wealthy suburbs or other types of communities where there is less violence. Additionally, because DC is only a city, it is very easy to go a short distance to places with different gun laws and bring some illegal guns back into town (although I admit, it's not too tough for Bostonians to drive up to NH either--same way we get fireworks).

But I do see your point that our MA laws reflect our MA culture, so it may be a question of correlation but not causation; i.e., residents in Massachusetts may in general be less than fond of gun violence, so we tend to not own guns and we push for laws that reflect those values. No matter how you slice it, we should all be glad that no one has shot us and that we are alive and well to spend our workdays spouting off on these topics.

See Vermont

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To discredit your loose argument. Thanks!

It's too bad the commonwealth

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It's too bad the commonwealth didn't have serious gun control in the 1700's. Many gun deaths could have been prevented between 1775 and 1783 if the colonists didn't have guns.

Gun Death Rate vs Murder Rate

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It is certainly true if gun control laws are so unreasonably strict as to keep gun access low, the number of people that are killed by a gun is very likely to be lower. However, two other factors come into play that makes that statement totally useless in determining the level of safety for the average law abiding citizen.
1) When counting "gun deaths" the count is flawed in that both "justified" (good guy killing a violent criminal during a crime) and "unjustified" (Criminal killing a law abiding citizen). With studies from numerous sources including the anti-gun CDC finding that a gun is used to stop a violent crime about 2.5 million times a year, likely very inflated.
2) When the "law abiding citizens" do not have a good means of self protection, there are more violent crimes against them, many times using other easily available weapons, like clubs, knives and fists.

Welp...

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...there goes any peace and quiet you thought you were going to have today, Adam.

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What if

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The guy was using his gun safe as a space saver?

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What if

The guy was using his gun safe as a space saver to park his bicycle? I'm guessing that UHub would crash.

He shouldn't be a lawyer

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You don't move to a different state with toys that may or may not be legal, and think you are going to undo decades of case law before the end of your freshman year. No.

You do your research on the laws - like a law student should understand - and then leave your toys where they are legal and suck it up buttercup.

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This ^^^

I don't like the fact that I can't just haul my dad's shotgun and my rifle home with me. They currently hang out in my uncle's garage in Oregon. It just feels weird after they spent my entire childhood stored on the wall above my parents' bed.

But those are the rules in the state in which I live. I don't feel like paying out the cash to bring them to Massachusetts or put up with the hassles, and I didn't want them around when my kids were adolescents and some of their friends were not terribly trustworthy. I don't think it is a big enough deal to move. I have relatives in nearby states that target shoot and I can go do that if I want to.

I'm not even a lawyer or a law student and I was able to figure all that out from the internet. It really isn't that confusing.

And he never will with a

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And he never will with a felony conviction.

Failed to realize that one needs a law degree and preferably an election to public office before even thinking of getting away with felonies.

A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client and this guy didn't even get that far!

Read the ATF's guide to the

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Read the ATF's guide to the NFA of 1934. It's an artifact of a convoluted law written to keep the Depression Era SCotUS from striking it down the first federal gun control act (since the militia act of 1792) in its entirety as unconstitutional.

MA is still not complying with the 14th Amendment or Heller in it's entirety, but that's beyond the scope of this moron's case.

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Click on the link

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They provided pictures that demonstrate what 'AK47' style means

Why don't you read the linked materials?

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Sounds like it means a hand gun which has been adapted to have a high repeat fire rate.

But you could click on the links and actually read the description of the weapon, which is clearly banned in MA.

It's Ak47 style because it

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It's Ak47 style because it uses that particular type of operating mechanism, and it's a pistol because it has a barrel shorter than 16 inches AND has no shoulder stock AND its frame or receiver was manufactured specifically for use as part of a "handgun." Welcome to the wonderful world world of gun laws.

Guns

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and the culture they have created, are extremely weird to me. To me this feels close to some kind of strange thing, almost like the "Birther" phenomenon, coming from the land of the floating signifier, where "McCain" becomes one of the dog whistles about "bad" things....I'm not Donald Bathelme or Thomas Pynchon so I can't find the words....

.....but who the hell takes this much acting out with them into law school?.....not a good sign......this fellow is leaning away from enfranchisement in civil society...this is by far my least coherent post but my mind is boggled by what I'm trying to describe

Shame on the court for

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Shame on the court for including in its judgment the erroneous claim that Massachusetts law requires gun registration. That type of nonsense has no business being included. How can a defendant's failure to take bogus legal advice possibly be considered evidence ? Defense: "Mass. gun laws too byzantine to comprehend." Court: "Wrong, it's so easy even a judge can."

MA 'registers' the sale or

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MA 'registers' the sale or transfer of firearms NOT the ownership like NY state does. It is alarming that the SJC doesn't understand the difference when the fate of people in legal jeopardy depends on it.

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ignorance [of the law] is no

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ignorance [of the law] is no defense

Meanwhile, according to Heien v North Carolina, ignorance of the law *is* a valid defense for breaking the law.

Maybe with Heller you can't, but with Heien you can.

Come on now

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Dude reads law, dude decides to ignore law to save money and admits to that very thought process in court. That's not ignorance.