City of Boston residents who wish to carry a handgun for self-defense must apply for a License to Carry Firearms (LTC) with the Boston Police Department.1 The application process includes numerous steps, such as completing a license application, consenting to an interview with a Firearms Licensing Official, successfully completing a criminal background check, and furnishing a “Firearm Safety Certificate or Hunting Safety Course Certificate issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”2 But the City’s LTC guidelines also state that applicants must pass a shooting qualification test (Qualification Test) “at the Boston Police Department Firearms Range at Moon Island within two weeks of the date of the application.”3 To pass the Qualification Test, applicants must (1) “show the safe handling of, and familiarity with, a .38 caliber, 4-inch barrel revolver” and (2) complete a scored live-fire test.4
Conditioning a handgun carry license on a scored live-fire exercise violates the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.5 In the wake of New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen,6 municipalities that wish to preserve sensible firearm regulation should understand the constitutional limits of licensure requirements — promoting public safety and upholding Second Amendment rights need not be mutually exclusive.
Part I analyzes the statutory scheme for carrying firearms in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and describes the Qualification Test. Part II outlines the constitutional framework for Second Amendment cases, chronicling the evolution from a “reasonable regulation” stan-dard7 to the post-Bruen state of play. Part III applies that framework to the Qualification Test, concluding that mandatory scored live-fire exercises violate the Second Amendment, and briefly discusses legal remedies.
I. Carrying Handguns in Massachusetts
This Part explores the statutory scheme for carrying handguns in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and discusses how the City of Boston has chosen to augment state requirements for an LTC by implementing the Qualification Test.
A. Statutory Requirements and Delegation to Local Licensing Authorities
In Massachusetts,8 any person seeking to possess a non–large capacity9 rifle or shotgun must apply for a “firearm identification card”10 (FID) with a local licensing authority.11 The licensing authority “shall issue [the FID],” unless “it appears that the applicant is a prohibited person.”12
Conversely, a License to Carry Firearms (LTC) entitles its holder “to purchase, rent, lease, borrow, possess and carry” handguns, rifles, and shotguns.13 Either the colonel of state police or a licensing authority can issue an LTC.14 As with an FID, the statute bans “prohibited person[s]” from obtaining an LTC.15 Yet, unlike how it treats FIDs, which a local licensing authority “shall issue” but for the “prohibited person” exception, the statute, until most recently, afforded local licensing authorities broad discretion in approving LTC applications.16 In this sense, Massachusetts was long a “may-issue” state for handgun licensure because it required showing “good reason” for an LTC.17 After the Bruen decision, Governor Baker signed into law Massachusetts House Bill 5163,18 which amended chapter 140, section 131(d) of the Massachusetts General Laws and made Massachusetts, at least facially, a shall-issue jurisdiction.19
B. City of Boston LTC Requirements
The Boston Police Commissioner serves as the licensing authority charged with issuing LTCs to Boston residents.20 The Commissioner historically possessed broad discretion, prior to the recent amendment to chapter 140, section 131(d) of the Massachusetts General Laws, when reviewing LTC applications.21 Apart from submitting to an interview with a Firearms Licensing Official and successfully completing a criminal background check, an LTC applicant must “[p]ass a shooting test at the Boston Police Department Range”22 within two weeks of applying for licensure.23
The Boston Police Department Range is located at Moon Island,24 a Boston Harbor island “located on a peninsula off Quincy’s Squantum section”25 about nine miles from Boston Police Headquarters. The location has operated as a training facility for firefighters since 1959 and for police since 1960.26 Boston LTC applicants must appear at Moon Island and demonstrate “safe handling of, and familiarity with, a .38 caliber, 4-inch barrel revolver.”27 Though nowhere described on the City of Boston website or the Boston Police LTC application materials, the Moon Island test involves much more than displaying safe firearm handling. In reality, applicants must shoot thirty rounds, at distances of seven and fifteen yards, and receive a minimum of 210 points out of 300 on a scored target.28
II. Constitutional Framework
This Part examines the current constitutional framework for Second Amendment cases, chronicling the evolution from a highly deferential standard to the current focus on the Second Amendment’s plain text and “historical tradition.”29 Tracing these doctrinal developments will underscore how drastically Bruen altered the constitutional paradigm for assessing firearm regulations like the Qualification Test.
A. The “Reasonable Regulation Standard”
Prior to District of Columbia v. Heller30 and McDonald v. City of Chicago,31 many judges presumed that the right to keep and bear arms existed “subject to reasonable restriction by the government.”32 Courts therefore employed what some have called the “reasonable regulation standard,”33 which resembled rational basis review, but with a smidgeon more bite.34 Most firearm restrictions would survive this reasonableness review.
B. An Individual Right that Applies to the States
After Heller and McDonald settled that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to bear arms applicable to the states,35 circuit courts soon adopted a two-step framework for challenged gun control laws. In United States v. Marzzarella,36 for example, the Third Circuit endorsed a “two-pronged approach to Second Amendment challenges.”37 In the first step, the court would ask whether the chal-lenged law burdens “conduct falling within the scope of the Second Amendment’s guarantee.”38 If not, the inquiry ceased, and the challenged law was upheld.39 But if so, the court would then deploy “some form of means-end scrutiny” to determine whether the law was constitutional.40 The second step involved two steps of its own — the level of scrutiny depended on “(1) how close the law c[ame] to the core of the Second Amendment right, and (2) the severity of the law’s burden on the right.”41 Thus, the “two-step approach” could actually involve four separate questions. This approach often led to applying intermediate scrutiny,42 but it seemed highly susceptible to judicial caprice and untethered interest balancing.43
C. Bruen and the End of Means-End Scrutiny
The Supreme Court recently revisited its Second Amendment jurisprudence in New York State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Bruen.44 In Bruen, two applicants for an unrestricted handgun carry license sued the superintendent of the New York State Police and a New York Supreme Court justice for violating their Second Amendment rights.45 The licensing officers denied their applications for failure to show “proper cause” for an unrestricted handgun carry license, as required by state law.46 Before reaching the merits, the Court declined to follow the two-step approach, holding that it was “one step too many.”47 The second step of the inquiry, which required interest balancing and means-end scrutiny, was “inconsistent with Heller’s historical approach.”48 The Court underscored that “the Constitution presumptively protects” individual conduct covered in “the Second Amendment’s plain text.”49 For a gun control regulation to pass constitutional muster, the government must demonstrate that it “is consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”50 The Court then held that New York’s “proper-cause requirement” violated the right of “law-abiding citizens with ordinary self-defense needs” to keep and bear arms.51
Bruen changed the state of play for Second Amendment cases by (1) discontinuing the old two-step approach and (2) tasking the government with establishing that a gun control law comports with the historical understanding of firearm regulation. What specifically troubled the majority was the impermissible discretion that state licensing officers exercised when determining whether a suitable applicant for a general handgun license adequately showed a “special need” for unrestricted carry.52 Thus, regulators could plausibly argue that Bruen addressed solely the unconstitutionality of restricting handgun carry licenses in a may-issue regime after an applicant has met other licensure requirements, like general suitability. Though discretion in assessing an enhanced need for an unrestricted handgun license is now unconstitutional, the government may posit that discretion in granting the license itself may not be.
This argument falls short. Admittedly, the New York gun law in question addressed a particularized set of facts — two licensees seeking to remove carry restrictions on their licenses.53 But the Court emphasized that its decision applied not just to handgun carry restrictions like the ones at issue in this case.54 “[T]he government must affirmatively prove that its firearms regulation” comports with historical tradition,55 and the Court underscored that any individual conduct covered by the “Second Amendment’s plain text” — not solely restrictions on already-issued handgun carry licenses — deserves constitutional protection.56 Thus, despite Bruen’s narrow facts, its holdings cast a wide net.
The majority’s discussion of analogical reasoning in applying the historical approach also merits attention. By changing the constitutional paradigm for Second Amendment cases from the two-step method57 to an exclusively historical approach for conduct covered by the Second Amendment’s plain text, one could argue that the Court replaced the old two-step method’s circularity with a similarly unmoored and unquantifiable historical test. Namely, judges need a rubric to decide whether a firearm law was “unimaginable at the founding,”58 and the Court did not supply it.
Justice Thomas, who delivered the Court’s opinion, acknowledged that any such historical inquiry “will often involve reasoning by analogy.”59 But analogical reasoning can be tricky in a Second Amendment context because “[e]verything is similar in infinite ways to everything else.”60 Disclaiming that it would not “provide an exhaustive survey”61 of how to assess the relevant similarity between two regulations under the Second Amendment, the Court emphasized two helpful guideposts: “how and why the regulations burden a law-abiding citizen’s right to armed self-defense.”62 Thus, when reviewing a challenged gun control law, courts must decide whether (1) the modern (that is, the challenged) and historical regulations impose “a comparable burden” on individual self-defense and (2) the “burden is comparably justified.”63 Yet Second Amendment analogical reasoning “is neither a regulatory straightjacket nor a regulatory blank check.”64 Courts should not uphold every modern firearm regulation that “remotely resembles a historical analogue.”65 At the same time, the government does not need to establish the exis-tence of a “historical twin” — only a “well-established and representative historical analogue.”66
The majority highlighted that its analysis should not be “interpreted to suggest the unconstitutionality of . . . ‘shall-issue’ licensing regimes”67 that “often require applicants to undergo a background check or pass a firearms safety course.”68 Such objective tests that do not involve exercising discretion or “formation of an opinion” presumptively pass constitutional muster.69 Nevertheless, Justice Thomas made no reference to scored live-fire tests.70 Indeed, a conventional firearms safety course is not the same as a scored marksmanship test. A firearms safety course typically “provides . . . proper education on how to handle, use, store, and transport guns.”71 Firearms safety courses almost never involve scored live fire — many do not even include a live-fire component.72 Tellingly, the City of Boston considers its marksmanship test and firearms safety course distinct requirements, noting on its LTC application guidelines that applicants must complete both a firearms safety course and a marksmanship test at the Boston Police firing range.73 Thus, it does not follow from the majority opinion that marksmanship tests, though they arguably rely on “narrow, objective, and definite standards,”74 are constitutional. And by observing that even shall-issue “permitting scheme[s] can be put toward abusive ends” when they “deny ordinary citizens their public right to carry,” the opinion suggests the opposite.75
Justice Alito’s concurring opinion observed that the Court “decide[d] nothing about who may lawfully possess a firearm or the requirements that must be met to buy a gun.”76 Regulators may point to this language as support for maintaining certain licensing requirements, such as a scored live-fire shooting test. But this argument fails to persuade. First, these opinions have no precedential value in light of the majority opinion, which the concurring Justices joined.77 Second, even if they did, Justice Alito’s primary objective was to note that Justice Breyer’s dissent,78 which focused on “the dangers of gun violence,”79 was inapposite in a case about an unconstitutional handgun licensing regime.80 Thus, when mentioning “requirements” and “who may lawfully possess a gun,”81 Justice Alito was most likely signaling that prohibited-person provisions, which proscribe gun licensure for certain classes (such as felons),82 remain unaffected by the Court’s decision. Still, states cannot enforce any law “that effectively prevents its law-abiding residents from carrying a gun” for armed self-defense.83
Justice Kavanaugh’s concurrence, joined by Chief Justice Roberts, emphasized that shall-issue regimes “may [still] require a license applicant” to submit to fingerprinting, a criminal and mental health background check, and “training in firearms handling and in laws on the use of force, among other possible requirements.”84 Lawmakers could argue that a live-fire marksmanship test falls within this ambit. But “training in firearms handling” primarily involves classroom instruction, weapons handling, and occasionally, live fire.85 It is different from a scored live fire, or marksmanship, test.86 Even if all firearms safety courses pass constitutional muster, conditioning a handgun carry license on demonstrating sufficient accuracy with the weapon, or even “safe handling of” and “familiarity with” it, via an in-person examination with a licensing official exceeds the conventional understanding of “training in firearms handling.”87
The concurrence also asserted that shall-issue regimes imposing certain threshold requirements — like background checks and fingerprinting — are constitutionally permissible, but they must “operate in that manner in practice.”88 Thus, a shall-issue state cannot institute overreaching suitability requirements — including objective ones89 — if they infringe the self-defense right or amount to “open-ended discretion.”90
III. Applying the Constitutional Framework to the Qualification Test
Firearm regulations face exacting scrutiny post-Bruen. This Part asks whether conditioning LTC receipt on satisfactory performance of a scored live-fire test violates an applicant’s Second Amendment rights. Arguing that it does, the Part concludes with a brief discussion of legal remedies.
A. Historical Firearm Regulations Do Not Include Scored Shooting Tests
Putting aside any constitutional questions that the Massachusetts gun laws raise,91 the City of Boston’s Qualification Test comports with the plain text of the amended state statute.92 Massachusetts law does not forbid a licensing authority, like the Boston Police Commissioner, from engaging in the practice.93 But the Qualification Test must survive Bruen analysis on its own accord.
Before engaging in that analysis, this Note observes that Massachusetts employs, at least facially, a shall-issue regime for handgun carry licenses.94 The Bruen Court held that shall-issue regimes that “contain only ‘narrow, objective, and definite standards’” are usually constitutional.95 These objective standards include “undergo[ing] a background check or pass[ing] a firearms safety course.”96 The City of Boston could presumptively argue that its Qualification Test, which requires an LTC application to obtain a quantifiable point tally on a scored target, is the type of objective test that Justice Thomas deemed constitutional.
But that contention misconstrues Bruen. First, the Bruen majority did not hold that all objective licensing requirements are constitutional, for even an objective test must not “deny ordinary citizens their right to public carry.”97 And a shall-issue permitting scheme “can be put toward abusive ends.”98 Because the Qualification Test requires applicants to fire a heavy, unpopular handgun accurately,99 which not everyone can do, it impedes law-abiding citizens from exercising their armed self-defense right — the right to public carry is reserved only for those who shoot well with a heavy handgun. Second, Justice Thomas stated that background checks and firearms safety courses are constitutional, but a shooting qualification test is not a firearms safety course.100 Thus, Bruen does not support the proposition that scored live-fire tests survive judicial scrutiny. The Qualification Test’s quantitative characteristics may mitigate its constitutional deficiencies but do not cure them. In addition to accuracy, the Qualification Test demands that applicants show “safe handling of, and familiarity with, a .38 caliber, 4-inch barrel revolver.”101 The City of Boston does not provide any concrete guidelines, like a scoring rubric, for the safe-handling requirement, and licensing officials may have differing opinions on the matter. Such requirements do not resemble the “narrow, objective, and definite standards”102 that Justice Thomas referenced as per se constitutional.
Under Bruen, “when the Second Amendment’s plain text covers an individual’s conduct,” a court may conclude that a gun control law passes constitutional muster only if the government establishes that the firearm regulation at issue “is consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation.”103 The Qualification Test requires LTC applicants to demonstrate safe handling of a .38 revolver and to obtain a requisite number of points on a scored target.104 Thus, we must ask whether that regulation — conditioning LTC receipt on satisfactory safe handling and accuracy — (1) is covered by the Second Amendment’s plain text and (2) accords with historical firearm regulation.105 Moreover, the burden would fall on the City of Boston to prove that the Qualification Test comports with that historical tradition.106
1. Does the Second Amendment Cover the Conduct at Issue? — Step one of the Bruen test involves asking whether “the Second Amendment’s plain text covers” the individual conduct at issue.107 Here, the City of Boston’s licensing regime prohibits residents from carrying handguns for armed self-defense unless they obtain a qualifying score on a marksmanship test administered “at the Boston Police Department Firearms Range at Moon Island” and demonstrate safe handling of a .38 revolver.108 The Second Amendment commands that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”109 Presumptively, the City of Boston will deny a handgun carry license to any applicant who cannot fire thirty rounds accurately on a scored target with a .38 revolver and demonstrate safe handling of that weapon.110 A four-inch .38 revolver weighs roughly thirty-four ounces unloaded111 and has a trigger pull of twelve to fifteen pounds in double-action mode.112 A Glock nine-millimeter, a common self-defense weapon, weighs about twenty-two ounces unloaded, and its trigger weight registers around six pounds.113 Some applicants may lack the stamina and strength, due to age or disability, to pass the Qualification Test with a .38 revolver, but could pass a truncated version of the test (that is, firing fewer rounds) or if allowed to use a different handgun.114 Even if an individual can safely and accurately shoot one handgun model, a Boston LTC applicant must display accuracy and adroitness with a heavy .38 revolver. Accordingly, the answer to this threshold textual question is undoubtedly yes.115
2. Is the Challenged Law Consistent with the American Tradition of Firearm Regulation? — Proceeding to step two, the Qualification Test’s constitutionality hinges on whether it comports with the American tradition of firearm regulation. Analogical inquiry guides that analysis.116 To identify a historical analogue, we must determine how and why the Qualification Test “burden[s] a law-abiding citizen’s right to armed self-defense.”117 First, the “how”: the Qualification Test impedes the self-defense right by restricting public carry only to those who can shoot a .38 revolver with a four-inch barrel accurately and demonstrate safe handling of and familiarity with the weapon. Second, the “why”: though the City of Boston has not explicitly stated why it has chosen to burden the armed self-defense right with its Qualification Test, it seems reasonable to infer that the Qualification Test seeks, at least partially, to promote public safety by ensuring that only qualified shooters possess and carry handguns.118
Next, we must search for analogous historical firearms regulations — ones that burdened the self-defense right in a “relevantly similar” way.119 This analogical test “is neither a regulatory straightjacket nor a regulatory blank check.”120 Courts should not uphold a modern gun regulation “that remotely resembles a historical analogue.”121 At the same time, the government need not prove the existence of a “historical twin.”122 For example, laws have long proscribed carrying “firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”123 But which places society considers “sensitive” change over time — courts must therefore determine whether historical analogues exist to justify the modern prohibition.124
With the historical methodology limned, the burden would then pass to the City of Boston to establish the appropriate historical analogue. Unfortunately, Bruen does not offer much guidance on how to complete this historical analysis, and some have compared this phase to “Plato’s unknown.”125 On the one hand, the City need not show a historical tradition of municipalities administering marksmanship tests in the exact same manner — same weapon, same scoring, same rules. That would be a “historical twin” and “regulatory straightjacket.”126 On the other hand, the City would have to do more than merely establish the existence of any restriction on public carry in any context — that approach would “risk endorsing” a regulatory outlier “that our ancestors would never have accepted.”127 More likely, a court would require the City to substantiate an American tradition of limiting public carry to those who can shoot a prescribed firearm accurately and handle it safely.128
(a) Early American Firearm Regulation. — When dredging up historical sources to assist with Second Amendment challenges, “not all history is created equal.”129 Bruen commands that the focus must remain on how the people who codified the constitutional rights understood them.130 Thus, the relevant time periods become the amendments’ adoption dates — 1791 (Second Amendment) and 1868 (Fourteenth Amendment).131 Moreover, a “regular course of practice” may help illuminate confounding “terms & phrases.”132 Importantly, laws adopted after ratification that conflict “with the original meaning of the [Second Amendment’s] text obviously cannot overcome or alter that text,” and if “later history contradicts” the Second Amendment’s text, “the text controls.”133
The historical tradition indicates a broad armed self-defense right that all citizens possessed, irrespective of marksmanship. Professors George Mocsary and David Kopel, as well as Joseph Greenlee, authored an amicus brief in Bruen, surveying several historical sources to ascertain how the Founding era understood the armed self-defense right and firearm regulation.134 For instance, the 1689 English Bill of Rights cites King James II’s disarmament of his subjects as a reason for his overthrow,135 suggesting that “[p]eaceable carry for self-defense” was a protected right in the English tradition.136 William Blackstone, when describing the “absolute rights” of individuals, discussed the “right of personal security” and the derivative right to bear arms for self-defense in 1765.137 “By the time of the founding, the right to have arms” was a fundamental English right.138 Moreover, the Framers understood the perils of forced disarmament by the government that occurred throughout English history.139
Nor did the armed self-defense right “stop at the domestic doorstep.”140 Thomas Jefferson, when describing the fundamental laws of nature and important principles of self-government, described the “right and duty to be armed at all times.”141 After the Boston Massacre in 1770, where British Redcoats shot and killed Crispus Attucks and four other American colonists, John Adams, as defense counsel for the British soldiers, acknowledged that “every private person is authorized to arm himself.”142 Several Founding-era statutes even mandated public carry “for public-safety reasons,”143 and evidence of an early American tradition of restricting public carry is scant.144
Some firearm regulation did occur in the early colonial period. A 1692 Massachusetts statute empowered justices of the peace to arrest “all affrayers, rioters, disturbers or breakers of the peace” and anyone who “shall ride, or go armed offensively before” any royal officers or ministers “in fear or affray of their majesties’ liege people.”145 The Bruen Court observed, however, that this statute “merely codified the existing common law offense of bearing arms to terrorize the people.”146 Likewise, some laws prohibited the concealed carry of “Pocket Pistol[s], Skeines, Stilettoes, Daggers or Dirks, or other unusual or unlawful Weapons.”147 Thus, there is a historical tradition of prohibiting concealed carry of unusual or unlawful weapons, and the Supreme Court has said as much in Heller.148 But even using the broadest form of analogical reasoning, proscribing armed terrorization of the public and the concealed carry of unusual weapons cannot serve as valid historical analogues for a marksmanship test.
Marksmanship and safe-handling requirements in the context of firearm possession are entirely absent from the historical tradition. Some have even criticized colonial militiamen for their “indifferent shots” and “the relatively low ratio of British casualties to the shots fired.”149 These deficiencies persisted through the Civil War, with one study “estimat[ing] that Yankee troops fired 1000 rounds for every bullet that actually struck a Confederate soldier.”150 In fact, two Civil War veterans, “dismayed by the lack of marksmanship shown by their troops,” founded the National Rifle Association in 1871 to “promote and encourage rifle shooting on a scientific basis.”151 Accurate shooting was not a prerequisite for firearm possession, or even military service, in the Founding era.152
Mark Frassetto created a compendium of early American gun laws, organized by category and historical period.153 This compendium lists sixteen separate categories of historical firearm regulation, including brandishing, concealed carry, dueling, and militia regulation.154 Frassetto’s work demonstrates that some states proscribed concealed public carry of unconventional weapons155 and firearm possession for minors.156 Yet none of the roughly 1000 laws cited conditioned public carry on marksmanship or scored live fire. In fact, many laws mandated public firearm carry.157
The Supreme Court has recognized some other “longstanding” firearm prohibitions, based on its text-and-history approach, such as restricting the “possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill” and “forbidding the carrying of firearms” in schools and government buildings.158 Though these examples elucidate what the Framers understood as acceptable firearm restrictions and may be useful in assessing other Second Amendment challenges, it remains difficult to detect an analogical thread — even an attenuated one — to conditioning handgun carry on marksmanship and discretionary safe-handling requirements.
Some historians have suggested that the Supreme Court has adopted a faulty historical approach. Professor Saul Cornell has argued that the Second Amendment conferred neither an individual nor a collective right to armed self-defense but a “civic right that guaranteed that citizens would be able to keep and bear those arms needed to meet their legal obligation to participate in a well-regulated militia.”159 This view, Cornell contends, “emphasizes that there can be no right to bear arms without extensive regulation.”160 Cornell thus posits that both gun control and gun rights advocates apply flawed frameworks in their Second Amendment analyses.161 Critics have questioned the viability of Cornell’s thesis and have contended that “it gives only a partial, selective, and often unreliable account of the development of the American right to arms.”162 Indeed, it seems odd to suggest that the government can essentially regulate away the fundamental constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Moreover, the Heller Court cast doubt on Cornell’s argument by refusing to adopt it to settle the individual-collective debate.163 And Cornell’s points have limited salience when the task at hand is to hunt for concrete historical analogues to marksmanship and safe-handling requirements.164
Admittedly, it is logically impossible to prove nonexistence. Though courts have not fully grappled with Bruen step two, initial treks into “Plato’s unknown” suggest that the government faces a demanding task.165 At the time of the ratification of the Second and Fourteenth Amendments, there was an American tradition of an expansive right to firearm possession and public carry, circumscribed by restrictions on certain classes of people deemed a threat to public security, usually because of race or criminal history. Neither these nor other colonial prohibitions on using firearms to terrorize the citizenry, concealing unusual weapons, and carrying weapons in certain public places, can function as an analogical thread to marksmanship and firearm handling conditions — to suggest otherwise would amount to a “regulatory blank check” that the Bruen Court rebuked.166
B. Legal Remedies
Based on the City of Boston’s facially unconstitutional licensing regime, any Boston resident can seek declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief for the City’s infringing the constitutional right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment, as applied to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.167 This Note does not purport to discuss all the mechanics of either standing or § 1983 liability. As a general matter, however, it bears mentioning that an aggrieved applicant could assert a plausible claim for declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief against City of Boston licensing officials, the colonel of the Massachusetts State Police, and certain state firearms officials, subject to any affirmative defenses raised by the government.168 A suit against the City of Boston could also proceed under a Monell theory.169 But the Eleventh Amendment would bar suit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in federal and state courts.170
Jurisdictions that require applicants for handgun carry licenses to complete a shooting qualification test need to furnish affirmative proof that conditioning the armed self-defense right on a scored live-fire exercise comports with the historical tradition of firearm regulation171 — no such tradition exists. This Note is more than a litigation roadmap, however, and does not argue that all firearm restrictions are unlawful. But certain ones, like the Qualification Test, do not pass constitutional muster. Exploring these constitutional contours will help citizens and lawmakers better understand the scope and limits of what the Second Amendment protects. The right to armed self-defense and promoting public safety need not be irreconcilable ends.