Hightower vs. Boston

Gun cleaning safety
August 23, 2012
Mayors try to establish local gun control
October 10, 2012

United States Court of Appeals
For the First Circuit

No. 11-2281

STACEY HIGHTOWER,
Plaintiff, Appellant,

v.

CITY OF BOSTON; EDWARD DAVIS, Boston Police Commissioner; COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS,
Defendants, Appellees.

The issue:

Does the second amendment prevent a concealed carry application from being denied if false statements are given on the application for the license?

The facts:

Stacey Hightower is a former Boston Police officer who, as a result of her service, had a Class A license to carry and conceal a large capacity firearm. Shortly after her resignation from the BPD, her license was revoked because the licensing authority determined that she had falsely answered a question on her renewal application. The question was whether she had any complaints or charges pending against her.

Background:

Stacey Hightower, a resident of Boston, served as a police officer for the City of Boston from June 1998 until August 15, 2008. Hightower’s Class A license lapsed in March 2008. In July 2008, Hightower filed an application to renew her Class A license. To renew the license, she had to fill out, in addition to the ordinary renewal form, a Form G 13-S, which was specific to Boston Police officers, who were required to fill out that form when applying for or renewing firearms licenses. Footnote One of the questions on the G 13-S form was “Are there any complaints or charges pending against you?” Hightower answered “No” to that question and her renewal was approved without restrictions on August 1, 2008. She resigned from the BPD effective August 15, 2008. On August 18, 2008, a “Police Commissioner’s Personnel Order” was placed into her file without her endorsement, stating that her resignation had been “presented with charges pending.” The Licensing Unit officer determined that Hightower had been untruthful in her answer on the G 13-S. and sent her a letter revoking her Class A license and stating the reasons.

On August 20, 2008, Hightower received the letter revoking her Class A license on the grounds that she “completed the application form untruthfully.” The parties agree that the basis for this conclusion was that, in the view of the defendants, Hightower in fact had “complaints or charges” pending when she filled out the license renewal form, contrary to her answer on the form.

Results:

The particular question Hightower answered inaccurately in the defendants’ view — whether Hightower had complaints or charges pending against her at the time she was a BPD officer — was a material question. A federal district court upheld the decision and now the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston has upheld that ruling, saying the Second Amendment right to bear arms is not absolute: There is no specific right to carry high-powered weapons that go beyond the needs of personal protection and authorities have the right to restrict who can carry them based on the answers on their applications:

A requirement that firearms license applicants provide truthful information, enforced by the revocation of licenses if the applicant provides false information, serves a variety of important purposes. For one, it helps ensure the integrity of the system of keeping prohibited persons from possessing firearms. Massachusetts’s licensing scheme prohibits certain categories of people from possessing firearms. See Mass. Gen. Law ch. 140, § 131(d)(i)-(vii). A licensing authority does not necessarily possess all of the information necessary to determine an individual’s eligibility. The submission of false information by an applicant could make it more difficult for the licensing authority to assess whether the applicant is eligible (e.g., submission of a false name would make it more difficult to perform a background check). Footnote The prohibition of the inclusion of false information in a license application is necessary to the functioning of the licensing scheme.

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