Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

Massachusetts Attorney General Unilaterally Bans Thousands of Previously Legal Guns

Friday, July 22, 2016

Massachusetts Attorney General Unilaterally Bans Thousands of Previously Legal Guns

On July 19, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued an “enforcement notice” that greatly expands the Commonwealth’s definition of “assault weapon.”  AG Healey alleges that the ban’s definition of “copy” or “duplicate” “assault weapons” has been misinterpreted for the last 18 years and she is simply the first law enforcement official to discover this incorrect interpretation.  Unfortunately for AG Healey, the history of Massachusetts’ ban on “assault weapons” makes perfectly clear exactly which types of firearms the legislature intended to ban.

The Massachusetts ban on “assault weapons” was first passed in 1998 and included a provision that made the intent of the ban clear.  That provision provides that the term “assault weapon” “shall have the same meaning as a semiautomatic assault weapon as defined in the federal Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act [of 1994]. . . .”  By copying the federal definition of an “assault weapon” the legislature showed clear intent to prohibit exactly those firearms that at the time were already prohibited under federal law. 

By 1998, the federal ban on “assault weapons” had been in effect for nearly four years, and almost from day one of the federal ban, manufacturers were producing the “compliant” rifles that AG Healey is now targeting.  Massachusetts legislators in 1998 were well aware of these compliant rifles, yet they chose not to alter their legislation to prohibit those rifles when they simply enacted a copy of the federal ban.  It’s hard to imagine a more clear-cut example of legislative intent. 

Beyond AG Healey’s obviously incorrect interpretation of the law, her enforcement notice fails to provide an intelligible definition of what will be considered an “assault weapon” by her office.   The enforcement notice provides only the following test to determine if a firearm is a “copy” or “duplicate” “assault weapon” and therefore banned:

A weapon is a Copy or Duplicate and is therefore a prohibited Assault weapon if it meets one or both of the following tests and is 1) a semiautomatic rifle or handgun that was manufactured or subsequently configured with an ability to accept a detachable magazine, or 2) a semiautomatic shotgun.

  1. Similarity Test: A weapon is a Copy or Duplicate if its internal functional components are substantially similar in construction and configuration to those of an Enumerated Weapon. Under this test, a weapon is a Copy or Duplicate, for example, if the operating system and firing mechanism of the weapon are based on or otherwise substantially similar to one of the Enumerated Weapons.
  2. Interchangeability Test: A weapon is a Copy or Duplicate if it has a receiver that is the same as or interchangeable with the receiver of an Enumerated Weapon. A receiver will be treated as the same as or interchangeable with the receiver on an Enumerated Weapon if it includes or accepts two or more operating components that are the same as or interchangeable with those of an Enumerated Weapon. Such operating components may include, but are not limited to: 1) the trigger assembly; 2) the bolt carrier or bolt carrier group; 3) the charging handle; 4) the extractor or extractor assembly; or 5) the magazine port.

These tests seem intended to give little in the way of actual notice to gun owners while giving the AG’s office unlimited flexibility in enforcing the ban.  The “similarity test” could foreseeably encompass nearly all semi-automatic rifles because the “Enumerated Weapons” include rifles with the most common types of semi-automatic operating systems.  Even if that test weren’t interpreted so broadly, the “interchangeability test” would still capture many common rifles because newer firearm designs are often built using compatible parts from popular firearms to take advantage of the large aftermarket of magazines, trigger groups, and other components available for popular semi-automatic rifles.

Likely in an attempt to limit public uproar over her unilateral rewrite of the Massachusetts “assault weapon” ban, AG Healey notes that her new “enforcement notice” “will not be applied to possession, ownership or transfer of an Assault weapon obtained prior to July 20, 2016.” 

No explanation is given for how the definition of an “assault weapon” can change as it applies to individual possession, ownership, and transfer versus sales of new firearms by licensed dealers, but AG Healey was already on such a roll avoiding any use of logic that this legal contortion probably didn’t seem like such a stretch. 

However, the guidance is very clear that AG Healey “reserves the right to alter or amend this guidance”, so it’s possible that the AG’s new “interpretation” will soon apply to individual possession of previously compliant firearms.  NRA is still assessing all legal and legislative options to protect the rights of Massachusetts gun owners.  Stay tuned.

TRENDING NOW
Outrage of the Week: Shopify Targets America's Guns

News  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Outrage of the Week: Shopify Targets America's Guns

Hundreds of firearms retailers may have to close soon because a powerful Canadian tech company, Shopify, recently decided it was anti-gun and issued an ultimatum: Do business our way or not at all.

Divided Appeals Panel Upholds California Ban on Post-2013 Pistols

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Divided Appeals Panel Upholds California Ban on Post-2013 Pistols

Imagine if California, to combat what the legislature considered the serious problem of manmade global warming, required all new vehicles sold by car dealers in the state to run on grass clippings, rather than fossil ...

King County Unveils “Common Sense” Action Plan: Ban “Semi-automatic, High Velocity Weapons”

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

King County Unveils “Common Sense” Action Plan: Ban “Semi-automatic, High Velocity Weapons”

In a July 23rd op-ed, Joe McDermott, the Council Chair of King County, Washington, introduced a multi-prong “King County Gun Safety Action Plan” aimed at reducing gun violence.

NoFundMe: NRA Protest March Nets $70 in National Fundraising Effort

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

NoFundMe: NRA Protest March Nets $70 in National Fundraising Effort

Crowd funding is a relatively recent innovation that allows a person or cause to leverage the vast reach of the Internet to raise money for virtually every imaginable purpose. Even small donations of a few ...

Canada: Toronto Mayor Calls for Gun Bans, Ontario Premier Targets Criminals

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Canada: Toronto Mayor Calls for Gun Bans, Ontario Premier Targets Criminals

Canadian anti-gun politicians’ campaign to disarm law-abiding citizens continued this week. On Monday, the Canadian press reported on an August 3 letter from Toronto Mayor John Tory to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In the missive, Tory appeared to back ...

NRA Endorses Hyde-Smith for U.S. Senate

News  

Monday, August 13, 2018

NRA Endorses Hyde-Smith for U.S. Senate

FAIRFAX, Va. – The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) announced on Monday its endorsement of Cindy Hyde-Smith to represent Mississippi in the U.S. Senate. 

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Adventures in Correlation

News  

Friday, August 10, 2018

Adventures in Correlation

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut recently linked to a news article about a CDC report on homicides, claiming that “allowing more guns in more places isn’t making us safer. It’s doing the opposite.”

NRA Statement on 3-D Printers and Plastic Firearms

News  

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

NRA Statement on 3-D Printers and Plastic Firearms

FAIRFAX, Va.— Chris W. Cox, executive director, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, released the following statement on Tuesday:  

Federal Appeals Court Confirms Second Amendment Protects Right to Carry in Public

News  

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Federal Appeals Court Confirms Second Amendment Protects Right to Carry in Public

The NRA applauds a ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that confirms the Second Amendment protects the right to carry a firearm outside the home for self-defense.

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -

More Like This From Around The NRA

NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.