Discharging Firearm Within 500 Feet of a Building

Discharging Firearm Within 500 Feet of a BuildingUnder Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 section 12E it is a crime for a person to discharge a firearm, rifle, or shotgun within 500 feet of a dwelling or building in use without the consent of the owner or legal occupant. Live ammunition isn’t required as firing blank rounds from a starter pistol at a neighbor’s house is considered discharging a firearm under the law.

The reason behind the law prohibiting the discharge of a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling or building in use is to protect the potential occupants of active buildings all day and night and not simply during formal business hours.

Anyone found guilty of this offense will be punished by a fine between $50 and $100 or imprisonment in a jail of house of correction for not more than 3 months, or both.

There are several exceptions for certain persons and situations. They are as follows:

  1. discharging a firearm in lawful defense of life and property;
  2. any law enforcement officer discharging his or her firearm while in the line of duty;
  3. discharging a firearm while using an underground or indoor target or test range with the consent of the owner or legal occupant;
  4. discharging of a firearm by persons using outdoor skeet, trap, target or test ranges with the consent of the owner or legal occupant of the land on which the range is established;
  5. discharging a firearm in licensed shooting galleries; and
  6. discharging blank cartridges for theatrical, athletic, ceremonial, firing squad, or licensed fireworks displays.

The defendant will be charged with this offense even if they did not know that they were discharging their firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling. Ignorance is not a defense. The 500 foot requirement is to be measured in a straight line from the location of the observed discharge to the nearest location of the building’s structure. The burden is on the prosecution to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the firearm was discharged with 500 feet of the dwelling or building. This can be hard to prove and hiring a firearms defense attorney that is capable of holding the prosecution to that burden of proof is the first step to defeating these charges.

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