Buying & Selling Handguns: A Dealer’s Tutorial

Posted by oldglory on December 28, 2010

by Jon Green, Director of Education & Training @ GOAL

The good news is that Massachusetts has a few new gun shops for duly licensed residents to patronize. The not so good news is the morass of regulations and laws regarding what a dealer can transfer has not improved much.

Our current state of affairs require dealers to abide by two standards; the law (Chapter 140 Sec 123) and the regulations created by former Attorney General Scott Harshbarger (940 CMR 16.00). Both create standards that must be met for a dealer to legally transfer a handgun to a duly licensed resident.

These standards apply to dealers or handgun purveyors only! Duly licensed residents can privately sell or transfer 4 guns per calendar year to another duly licensed resident! All too often myth and ignorance prevent a dealer or citizen from transferring or buying a really nice firearm. Keep in mind that the following terms are misleading and not accurate: Pre-ban handgun and Mass compliant handgun.

The proper term should be MA Dealer Compliant Handgun. A duly licensed resident can possess any handgun provided it doesn’t meet the statutory and historically incorrect definition of an assault weapon, unless said assault weapon was made on or before 9/13/94.

A Massachusetts dealer licensed under Chapter 140 Section 122 can only sell/transfer handguns that appear on the “approved firearms roster” or meet the statutory exemptions AND meet the regulations of 940 CMR 16.00 OR be exempt from those regulations.

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security publishes the Approved Firearms Roster. It is a list of handguns that have been submitted for testing by the manufacturer and meet or exceed the standards created by law. For a handgun to be exempt from this roster, it must have been owned in Massachusetts on or before October 20, 1998. So what does ‘owned’ mean? It is generally believed to mean that it was in a dealer’s acquisition and disposition book or possessed by a duly licensed individual. Considering there were no requirements to be licensed and or registered prior to 1969, how is one to provide proof of ownership for the purpose of dealer transfers? Some attorneys have stated an affidavit would meet legal muster.

The Attorney General’s regulations are another story. I refer you to “Regulatory Fraud – A Calculated Deception Against The People Of The Commonwealth Of Massachusetts Regarding the Attorney General’s Fraudulent Regulation On Handguns”. You can read the whole report at

The hypocrisy of the regulations is laughable. However the lack of assistance by the various Attorney Generals is, at the very least, disrespectful and, one may say – downright criminal. The dealer must determine whether a handgun meets the standards of the regulations or is exempt from these regulations. Some of these exemptions include handguns manufactured on or before October 20, 1998, handguns sold to law enforcement or military and handguns solely designed and sold specifically for target shooting competitions.

Dealers typically must depend on the handgun manufacturer and/or their sporting goods wholesaler for confirmation that a particular skew number does in fact meet the regulations. Unlike the EOPPS Approved Firearms Roster, there is no official list of handguns that meet or exceed these regulations.

Key points to remember:

  • Only Law enforcement is exempt from the AG regulations
  • Penalties for violating the AG regulations can be as much as $5000 per violation
  • The burden of proof is on the dealer
  • No Attorneys General have offered assistance to manufacturers or dealers regarding compliance assistance
  • There is no official AG list of handguns that meet the regulations
  • Dealers may possess non MA dealer compliant guns for transfer to other dealers