Yesterday, surrounded by law enforcement and gun control advocates, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced that she’d had enough of gun makers “deciding what was or was not compliant with state law” – declaring a ban on what she called copycat “assault-style weapons”.
Effective “immediately” AG Healey’s ban is designed to stop the sale of those modern sporting rifles (a/k/a “assault rifles”) that had been modified so as to pass the multi-point exam as to what actually constituted an “assault rifle” under Massachusetts state law.
“The gun industry doesn’t get to decide what’s compliant,” she said, “We do.”
“We” of course, meaning those who agree with her position.
Almost simultaneous with AG Healey’s announcement, Massachusetts gun rights groups like the Gun Owner’s Action League of Massachusetts, said her unilateral action, taken with “actually going through the process, then telling licensed retailers they’re not allowed to sell something” would “probably be a very interesting legal challenge at some point.”
Healey’s actions are, apparently, aimed at the myriad of changes that gun makers have made to the modern sporting rifle in order to make them “compliant” in states like California -and Massachusetts. Those changes have included non-removable, reduced-capacity magazines, fixed versus adjustable stocks and other largely cosmetic changes.
Operating systems, however, have remained essentially untouched because semi-automatic rifles or handguns operate on long-established mechanical principles, not eyewash legislation designed to ban the most popular long-gun in the country simply because of a resemblance to military-issued, fully automatic rifles.
According to Healey’s new interpretation of the law, a gun sharing the same basic operating system or having any interchangeable parts in common with a banned weapon is now verboten.
Healey used what has become standard operating language for opponents to modern sporting rifles, telling those present that those “deadly assault weapons were intended for military use” and “do not belong in civilian hands.”
If a dealer in Massachusetts has any of the now-banned guns in stock, they will be allowed to sell them to out-of-state dealers, but not individuals. If you’re a Massachusetts-resident and purchased on of the “copycat” rifles before Wednesday (July 20), you’ll be allowed to keep it.
But Healey warns that no Massachusetts resident will be able to possess an assault-style weapon purchased after Wednesday -even if they bought it elsewhere.
After announcing her sweeping change, Healey refused to categorize her action as an assault on legitimate businesses in Massachusetts, saying that her intent wasn’t to criminalize dealers.
Rather, she said her press conference was simply to “get the word out.”
Apparently, that’s not worked so well. Notices were reportedly mailed Tuesday, but none of the dealers we spoke with yesterday have yet received them. Many had, however, seen Healey’s Op-Ed in the Boston Globe where she accused the gun industry of “exploiting” a “loophole of potentially horrific proportions” -writing, “And it’s time we act.”
Does she expect a legal challenge? Definitely. In her Op-Ed, she writes that other states have banned assault weapons, and “Many of those bans have been challenged (unsuccessfully) by the gun industry, and we anticipate our directive may be too.”
“But,” she writes, “our job is to enforce state laws and to keep people safe. And this directive will do both.”
If it were only that simple.
Editor’s Note: You can read Attorney General Healey’s Boston Globe Op-Ed yourself at:
You can also read the Attorney General’s letter to Dealers Here: