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In one of the biggest decisions following the 2022 ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, a district court in Massachusetts ruled last August that the state’s law barring nonresidents from carrying a firearm in the commonwealth to be unconstitutional.

Now, the case, Commonwealth v. Dean F. Donnell, is set to begin the appeals phase before the State Supreme Judicial Court.

As some background, the case revolves around a New Hampshire man who was arrested and prosecuted for carrying a firearm in Massachusetts without a permit from that state. In an interesting twist, the defendant’s attorneys argued that Massachusetts law requiring a permit to carry “is unconstitutional on its face, is unconstitutional as applied to the defendant, and violated the defendant’s right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.”

The court chose to use the new Bruen standards, which asks whether the “Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct?” If the answer is yes, it next asks whether there exists a “historical precedent from before, during and even after the founding [that] evidences a comparable tradition of regulation?”

In writing the  opinion, Judge John F. Coffee said the Massachusetts law failed on both accounts.

“The conduct of the defendant in the instant case clearly is covered by the Second Amendment,” Judge Coffee wrote. On the second point, he later concluded, “The Commonwealth points to no historical precedent limiting the reach of one’s exercise to a federal constitutional right only within that resident’s state borders.”

While that was powerful enough in itself, Judge Coffee dropped bombshell after bombshell in explaining the ruling.

“A law-abiding resident of New Hampshire who is exercising his constitutional right should not become a felon by exercising that right while he is traveling through Massachusetts merely because he has not obtained a Massachusetts license to carry, which now, under the holding of Bruen, has to be issued to an applicant unless the applicant is otherwise disqualified,” the judge further wrote. “The court can think of no other constitutional right which a person loses simply by traveling beyond his home state’s border into another state continuing to exercise that right and instantaneously becomes a felon subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of incarceration.”

Of course, Massachusetts appealed the ruling, and the justices are seeking amicus briefs prior to the beginning of the proceedings. According to court records, interested parties filing briefs to date include gun-ban groups the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, along with pro-gun U.S. Rep. Jason Gerhard, R-New Hampshire. It’s likely pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association and Firearms Policy Coalition will be weighing in with briefs in the near future.

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