When the Lowell Police Department (LPD) first revealed its new firearms policy last October it was immediately confronted by critics who insisted their constitutional right to bear arms was being violated.
The new policy required applicants seeking a License to Carry (LTC) to complete an approved Safety Course and submit a written supplement providing reasons for seeking a license. The former requirement was criticized for requiring a course costing hundreds of dollars while the written supplement was quickly dubbed an “essay” requirement for exercising one’s constitutional rights.
Local gun-rights groups quickly condemned the new policy. Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) of Massachusetts called the “essay” requirement “an illegal ‘poll tax.’” The group Bearing Arms called the new policy “an absolute disgrace.” Fox News claimed that the new law would require residents to “write ‘an essay’ and pay upwards of $1,100 for training.” The article quoted Jim Wallace, the executive director of GOAL, describing the new policy as “over the top.”
Curious to learn about the process behind the new firearms policy, I filed a request with LPD for documents and correspondence related to the policy. Among the documents I received was a January 2016 memo from LPD superintendent William Taylor to City Manager Kevin Murphy. It contained this interesting highlight:
Far from being too strict, the new gun licensing policy was in fact supposed to be far more lenient. According to a 2013 survey by the Lowell Sun, Lowell had a lower gun rate than similar cities in the state and it almost never granted Unrestricted LTCs. Exceptions were made for applicants who were “victim[s] of a crime looking for better self-defense, or if they need[ed] a gun for work.” The new policy was developed to broaden the category of applicants who can be granted Unrestricted LTCs.
The impetus for the new policy came early last year after three Lowell residents sued the Police Department for “unfairly den[ying] unrestricted firearm permits.” LPD subsequently agreed to revise the policy, which was more than 30 years old. All of this makes the criticism of gun-rights groups a bit unseemly.
Also included in the documents were e-mails revealing that LPD worked closely with Daniel J. Whitman, the President of Safe Carry Firearms Training based in neighboring Tyngsboro, to modify his course to satisfy LPD’s requirements.
According to the released documentation, the cost of the course is $100 rather than the $1,100 Fox News claims.
Any doubts one may have about passing the course can also be safely laid to rest. The curriculum of the course contains a written exam with the following questions:
Course takers are only required to answer 24 out of 30 questions correctly. They can answer the above questions wrong and still go on to qualify for an Unrestricted LTC.
As for the dreaded “essay,” the policy refers to it simply as a “written supplement” …
And rather than an undue burden, it can be bypassed by sufficient documentation, including character witnesses.
By the same token, a particularly strong “supplement” also cuts down on the amount of paperwork you have to provide - supporting the argument that the new policy is significantly more lenient.
The full policy is embedded below, and the rest can be found on the request page.
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Image by Natalia E. Panetta via Wikimedia Commons