Thursday, March 17, 2005

Stupid Massachusetts

Stupid, stupid, stupid. I can’t believe how stupid Massachusetts can be. Let me explain my outbreak. When I moved to Massachusetts from Texas, it took me awhile to figure out gun laws, but I did. I found I needed a license to own a firearm even if it never left my house. I found I needed to register all firearms I own.

Fine. I went though the licensing procedure (description here) and registered a few of my guns (others stayed in my parents’ house or in a storage shed in New Hampshire). I became a duly licensed and legal Massachusetts gun owner.

Bill and I eventually moved to New Hampshire partly because of the state’s stupid gun laws. One of Massachusetts many gun laws state you must provide your new address to the Criminal History Systems Board, which runs the gun licensing and registration scheme. The law is silent about an out-of-state move, probably because legislators realized they no longer have any jurisdiction and didn’t include it.

I knew I might want an out-of-state concealed carry license for Massachusetts and thought it reasonable to cancel my existing in-state license. I figured a bureaucrat somewhere might think it funny if a person with a valid in-state license asked for an out-of-state license. So, in 2003, I sent a letter to the Board with my new address, asked them to cancel my existing license, and “unregister” any firearms I had listed. I even asked them to verify cancellation and de-registration. Of course, I received no response (as I expected) and I realized that asking them to delete gun registrations is like asking waves not to dampen beaches. Still, I wanted to try.

So, can you guess what I got in yesterday’s mail? No? I got a folding postcard written on nice buff-colored card stock from the Criminal History Systems Board. My heart did a flutter. What’s this, I wonder, did I miss a parking ticket, did I get arrested and not remember it, did I…. Then I remembered. Oh, that’s the gun records board too. I opened two little tape circles holding it closed and read a reminder that my in-state license is about to expire. It helpfully cites laws and other facts that are no longer germane to me. So helpful, so friendly, so unnecessary.

I turned the card over to check my address half expecting to see one of those forwarding stickers the post office uses. Of course, there’s no sticker. We’ve lived out of Massachusetts for over one and a half years and our mail is no longer forwarded. The card’s address plainly shows New Hampshire. Obviously, the gun board got my letter and changed my address, but didn’t cancel my license.

Why do they think I need an in-state license when I live in New Hampshire? Why do they not check out-going mail either by hand or through a few lines of computer code and intercept notices going to another state? If they did so they could send a letter asking me to acknowledge I’m no longer a Massachusetts resident. Why wouldn't they cancel my license like I asked them to do in the first place?

Finally, why do I as a law-abiding, never been arrested, citizen get mail from a FREAKING Criminal History Systems Board? I grant you I'm not worried about what my mailman thinks of me, but here I get all these gun catalogs, gun newsletters, NRA magazines, etc. and then I get a card implying I have a criminal history. Maybe I'm a sensitive flower, but it still pisses me off.

Gun registration and licensing schemes don’t work. They’re run by bureaucrats who follow procedures, but apply no common sense. They don’t even read a person’s letter; they just use it to update an address to another state where they have no jurisdiction. I can’t believe how stupid such schemes are. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

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