Auditor Bump Calls for Improved Collaboration between State and Municipal Governments on Gun Licensing

 

Boston, MA—Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today released an audit calling on the Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) to increase its collaborations with local licensing authorities that are struggling to meet the mandated timeframe for processing firearms licenses in order to ensure public safety while also improving efficiency. The recommendation comes as part of an audit of DCJIS that examined whether gun license applications were properly completed within the 40-day timeframe required by law.
“Our audit found that, according to many local police departments, limited resources resulted in delayed processing of applications for gun permits despite the completion of background checks in a timely manner,” Bump said. “I encourage state and local officials to work together to improve the efficiency of this process and ensure adequate local resources so that municipalities can complete applications within required timeframes without sacrificing public safety. Meeting the timeframe specified in law requires that this process be conducted efficiently, but it is imperative that it is done in a manner that keeps guns out of the hands of individuals who should not have them. ”
To obtain a firearm in the Commonwealth, applicants must provide proof of completion of a basic firearm safety course, and submit a completed application with fee. A firearm licensing official employed by local police departments then interviews the applicant, and inputs information contained in the application, as well as a digital photograph and fingerprints, into an online record check system managed by DCJIS. The licensing official also submits the applicant’s information to the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to determine whether the individual had any mental-health commitments. The licensing official then uses this information to determine if there are any factors that disqualify the individual from receiving a license. Individuals can be can be disqualified from receiving a license due to factors related to mental-health issues, prior criminal convictions, and outstanding arrest warrants. If no disqualifying factors exist, the license is approved.
The audit found that gun license applications took, on average, 65 days to be fully processed. It notes that only 38 of the 347 local licensing authorities processed applications within the required 40-day timeframe. Applicants waited more than 80 days on average in 65 licensing authorities. The audit shows that while background checks were processed in a timely fashion by state entities, including the DCJIS, the Massachusetts State Police, and the DMH, local licensing authorities were often unable to complete the application processing within the required timeframe.
During the audit period (July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2016), licensing authorities approved 114,522 applications, and denied 3,102.
The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services within the Executive Office of public Safety and Security, is tasked with coordinating the Commonwealth’s firearm license permitting process. It maintains and makes available to local police departments the information necessary to determine whether an application for a license meets eligibility requirements.

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