Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey is putting her foot down with respect to modern sporting rifles. The 45-year-old Harvard graduate has decided to ban the sale of all state-compliant black rifles in an effort to, as she put it, “address the proliferation of guns, particularly assault weapons.”
“The gun industry has found a way to exploit our laws, a loophole of potentially horrific proportions,” said Healey in an open letter published this week. “And it’s time we act.”
“On Wednesday, we are sending a directive to all gun manufacturers and dealers that makes clear that the sale of these copycat assault weapons is illegal in Massachusetts,” she continued.
“With this directive, we will ensure we get the full protection intended when lawmakers enacted our assault weapons ban, not the watered-down version of those protections offered by gun manufacturers,” said Healey.
The test to determine if one’s firearm fits the new state definition of “assault weapon” is as follows:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
If a weapon meets one of the above tests, it is a Copy or Duplicate (and therefore a prohibited Assault weapon), even if it is marketed as “state compliant” or “Massachusetts compliant.”
For more details on the ban and the list of enumerated weapons (Colt AR-15, AKs, Steyr AUG, etc.) click here.
The expanded ban takes effect immediately, i.e. July 20, 2016, which means moving forward the sale of “assault weapons” will be prohibited. There is an exemption for gun shop dealers (FFLs), who may sell these firearms if they can (a) prove via written evidence they received them before the aforementioned date and (b) they sell them to a person or business out-of-state where the firearms are lawful to possess.
Another exemption exists for individuals who lawfully purchased their “assault weapon” prior to July 20, 2016. It appears they will be able to maintain possession of their firearm and to sell it as well (see Q&A below):
Q: What if I already own a gun that is a copy or duplicate?
- If a weapon is a copy or duplicate of one of the models enumerated in the law, it is an Assault weapon. But, as a matter of her discretion as a prosecutor, the Attorney General will not enforce the assault weapons ban against those who possess or transfer a copy or duplicate of a listed Assault weapon, if the weapon was obtained prior to July 20, 2016, when she issued the guidance.
- The AGO also will not enforce the law against a gun dealer that possesses or transfers a “copy or duplicate” weapon that was obtained prior to July 20, 2016, provided that transfers, if any, are made to persons or businesses in states where ownership of the weapon is legal.
In the letter, Healey claimed that black rifles are “not weapons of self-defense,” but rather “weapons used to commit mass murder,” and that “they have no business being in civilian hands.”
She concluded by saying, “In the face of utter inaction by Congress, states have a duty to enact and enforce laws that protect people from gun violence. If Washington won’t use its power to get these guns off our streets, we will. Not only do we have the legal authority to do so, we have a moral obligation to do so.”
GunsAmerica reached out to Alan Gottlieb, the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, to get his thoughts on this latest development in The Bay State.
“This is an abuse of power by the Massachusetts Attorney General,” Gottlieb said in an email. “It is no different than President Obama’s illegal anti-gun executive orders. If these firearms were legal yesterday they are legal today.”