Massachusetts AG Tries to Clarify What She Means by ‘Assault Weapon’

Maura Healey (Photo: WGBH)

Maura Healey (Photo: WGBH)

Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey is finding it difficult to ban a weapon she doesn’t understand.

After announcing last month her unilateral plan to ban “assault weapons” in her state, Healey assured WGBH News that everyone knows exactly what she means by the term.

“We could not be more explicit,” she said. “The law and our enforcement does not apply to pistols, does not apply to handguns, does not apply to any number of weapons that are already out there, available for purchase. Contrary to what the governor has suggested, there’s not confusion about this. There’s no lack of clarity about this.”

After all, what could possibly be confusing about a ban on weapons with actions “substantially similar” to AR-15s and AK-47s?

A lot, it turns out, because despite her claims of absolute clarity, Healey’s office still felt the need to release this helpful list of “Guns That Are Not Assault Weapons”:

  • Any handgun on the current version of the state’s Approved Firearms Roster;
  • Any .22 caliber rifle;
  • Any Ruger Mini 14 or substantially-similar model weapon;
  • Any of the hundreds of rifles and shotguns listed on this list;
  • Any weapon that is operated by manual bolt, pump, lever, or slide action;
  • Any weapon that is an antique, relic, or theatrical prop;
  • Any semiautomatic rifle that cannot accept a detachable magazine that holds more than five rounds of ammunition;
  • Any semiautomatic shotgun that cannot hold more than five rounds of ammunition in a fixed or detachable magazine.

Finally, the notice concludes, “a weapon that is manufactured as an Assault Weapon cannot be made legal by alterations that allow it to discharge .22-caliber ammunition.”

So that thing about “any .22-caliber rifle” being legal (bullet #2)? Yeah, that’s not true.

Legal in Massachusetts: An M&P 15-22 .22-caliber firearm—not an “assault rifle.”

Legal in Massachusetts: An M&P 15-22 .22-caliber firearm—not an “assault rifle.”

Illegal in Massachusetts: AR-15 modified with a .22lr conversion kit—totally an “Assault Rifle”!

Illegal in Massachusetts: AR-15 modified with a .22lr conversion kit—totally an “Assault Rifle”!

The second revealing point in Healey’s list is her assurance that a “Ruger Mini 14 or substantially similar model weapon” is not an assault rifle. That’s great news for any Ruger Mini 14 fans, but anyone with an ounce of real firearm knowledge knows that a Ruger Mini 14 in 5.56 is, for all intents and purposes, functionally similar to the AR-15.

Healey’s inconsistency on this point does nothing but demonstrate her ignorance of firearm mechanics, a serious flaw for any public official looking to make rules on the manufacture and sale of these products. For the sake of MA residents, let’s hope she continues in that ignorance.

About the author: Jordan Michaels has been reviewing firearm-related products for over six years and enjoying them for much longer. With family in Canada, he’s seen first hand how quickly the right to self-defense can be stripped from law-abiding citizens. He escaped that statist paradise at a young age, married a sixth-generation Texan, and currently lives in Tyler. Got a hot tip? Send him an email at

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  • Raymond Lussier September 29, 2021, 8:22 am

    Healy should be removed from office. she is not the creator of laws just a ignorant know nothing usurper of our civil rights.

  • Dan Gore July 28, 2019, 10:29 pm

    For all the misinformed out there, the US military doesn’t call the M4 an “assault rifle”,It is a personal defense weapon. Just the way it is.

  • David Tester April 6, 2019, 12:50 am

    What are is he talking about in the interview when he says they were calling the C word ?

  • David D Hartman March 30, 2018, 8:51 am

    If you read the list of “acceptable” weapons that is provided in the link, you’ll find that the mini-14 and even the 10/22 are both limited to those that do not have the extremely dangerous “folding stock”. Once again laws made by those with the least amount of knowledge in the subject matter.

  • Saul Monella August 28, 2016, 10:23 am

    Healey is ONLY doing this to get a cabinet post with the Hillary administration, She’s counting on the ignorance of Massachusetts voters. Unfortunately, MA voters are schooled into blind obedience, look who they elect.

  • Larry Koehn August 27, 2016, 3:42 pm

    If the weapon is semi automatic it is NOT an assault weapon. Military assault weapons are either full automatic or burst firing weapons. This woman is dumber then a rock. She evidently thinks looks alone make an assault weapon!

    • Steve June 15, 2017, 3:16 pm

      There are no such things as “military assault weapons”. The military uses assault RIFLES, which have a unique list of features and characteristics that explicitly exclude them from the definition of an assault WEAPON.
      The similarity in terms was adopted to create confusion among politicians, the press, and the gullible public. In your case, it looks like it worked.

  • Kenny Smith August 27, 2016, 7:30 am

    What I don’t like about people like this woman is the fact that she will sit there and talk about all of these issues, about even bring up a persons privacy . But when something comes up she doesn’t want to talk about she says I don’t want to comment about that . Well how bout if the people of MA don’t want on comment on something , do they get a choice ?

  • AZArchangle55 August 26, 2016, 10:40 pm

    For the love of GOD people, assault is NOT a THING…IT IS AN ACTION!!

  • skipNclair August 26, 2016, 8:54 pm

    This is a prime example of why women should stay home make babies and cookies remain barefoot and present, and nurture as you are wired to do.

  • Ralph Solli August 26, 2016, 7:36 pm

    One must first understand that no particular gun can assault anyone. It is the criminal that uses the gun who is the assailant. Assault weapon is a term made up by the anti-gun lobby and politicians. It is a term that morphed from the early 60’s when these same people wanted to ban “Saturday Night Specials”. I’m sure if they ever succeed to ban the popular semi-auto rifles and handguns, they will come up with another term like excessively powerful firearms aimed at banning centerfire rifles and shotguns. Another point to debate is the anti-gun politicians and faceless, bureaucrats categorizing “assault weapons” by curtain features like folding stock, threaded barrels, flash hiders, and so called high capacity magazines. In Connecticut, a semi-automatic .22LR pistol with a threaded barrel is considered an assault weapon. Their argument is that they make a firearm more lethal. This is disingenuous because by their nature, guns are lethal when used to hunt or for self-defense. If they were not lethal, there would be no reason to have the Second Amendment. These anti-gun politicians ask for so called, “common sense gun laws”, yet nothing they present makes sense, and does not stop criminals from getting, and using guns to commit their crimes. They ask gun owners to “compromise”. Well I believe we have compromised too much already. There are over 20,000 gun laws already on the books and they keep asking for more. If they want compromise, let’s start by cutting the numbers of those laws in half. Lastly, this year’s presidential election will be the most important ever for gun owners and our Constitutional freedoms. Hillary Clinton has made it clear that she will push for a complete ban on guns in her first 100 days if elected. We cannot let that happen.

  • Dexter Winslett August 26, 2016, 1:52 pm

    This old retired street cop says that SHE SHOULD BE HUNG BY HER NECK!

  • Bob T August 26, 2016, 11:50 am

    I thought it was interesting that the interviewer never brought up the difference between a real assault weapon and a semi-auto. I agree that she has done her homework especially in the area of public perception and is relying on the misuse of the term “assault weapon” to garner public support for her position.

  • rt66paul August 26, 2016, 10:55 am

    Sadly, there are a small percentage of gun owners that ruin it for the rest of us. Before the AR ban by Clinton, I remember going out to an area outside of Los Angeles and on any given day you could hear auto weapon fire. I saw guys bring cars, and a lot of other things to shoot and blow up. They did not clean up afterwards and there were many the would shoot from unsafe areas. These guys are what many think about gun owners. Guns are a tool that can be dangerous and proper education is needed. We have many shows on cable that show gun use, how about some that show some safety beforehand?

    Every non gun owner I have taken to the range have been pleasently surprised on the safety that is in force. They are also surprised that the crew there will demonstrate how to fire the weapon. These people might not ever buy a gun, but they come away with a positive attitude towards guns and ownership.

    Having a gun safety day in your town would also be a great way to show that we are not like the movies.

  • Allen Dean Benge August 26, 2016, 7:48 am

    Ms. Healey cannot really be blamed for her abysmal ignorance of firearms. Notice I said ignorance, not stupidity. Ignorance can be cured with education, but as Ron White is so famous for saying, “You can”t fix stupid.” The Mini-14 she so magnanimously exempts from her planned ‘assault weapons ban,’ uses the same ammo as the AR-15, and the action works in a similar manner. The Mini-14 uses a detachable box magazine that can handle any number of rounds of ammo, from the original 5-round magazine to almost unbelievable amounts. The only real difference between the Mini-14 and the AR-15 is that the 14 is shiny walnut and blued steel, where the AR-15 is black, and to ignorant people, scary looking. The AR-15 is so popular with sports shooters for the same reasons it is popular with our military. It is a lightweight, reliable, accurate rifle that can be adapted to any style of shooting, from plinking tin cans to personal defense or hunting. It is not a high-powered weapon, as anti-gunners claim, the ammo is what they call intermediate, which means it is not a full power rifle round. The term was originally used for the .30 caliber carbine round, designed to be between a pistol and rifle round. Any rifle used to hunt is more powerful that the AR-15, such as the .243. .30-06, 308 etc. Finally, the AR in the designation does not mean assault rifle, but ArmaLite Rifle, the company that designer Eugene Stoner worked for. I hope this has helped some.

    • Steve G August 26, 2016, 11:54 am

      Allen – lots of good facts, but you make a statement that is 100% not true when you say, “Any rifle used to hunt is more powerful that the AR-15, such as the .243. .30-06, 308 etc.”

      I hunt with an AR chambered in .223 all the time and I am far from alone. While I don’t hunt deer with it, thousands of deer have been taken with that round cleanly and ethically. Other than that you make some great points.

    • Rouge1 August 28, 2016, 8:31 pm

      The 223 or 556 is a 22 cal round.

  • gary August 26, 2016, 4:23 am

    I have a Remington model 742 in 30-06 made in the 1960s that came with a 4-round magazine.
    Someone manufactured a 10-round mag for it, so it is not legal there.
    Guess I’ll stay away.
    She won’t miss me, though.

  • DD August 23, 2016, 9:17 pm

    Just another of my top 10 reasons politician oughtta understand their subject matter before legislating, interpreting or enforcing it.

    • kimberpross August 26, 2016, 9:55 am

      When the agenda is to ultimately eliminate as many firearms as possible, ignorance is bliss. Once they have eliminated all semi-auto rifles, some savvy statistician will drum up charts showing some other subset of firearm is too dangerous for the “to stupid to be allowed” public to own and they will include it. And on and on and on..

  • SuperG August 23, 2016, 3:47 pm

    Well, if you were on the fence if this woman was stupid or not, I think that she just removed all doubt and told everyone that she is.

  • Charlie King1 August 22, 2016, 12:22 pm

    Someone help me out here…a Ruger Mini-14 or similar is not an assault weapon? Any .22 caliber? This AG certainly doesn’t have a clue about the function of a semi-auto weapon nor does she add clarity to her intent.

    • DaveP326 August 26, 2016, 4:15 pm

      OK, a Ruger Mini 14 is NOT an assault rifle, but an M1 carbine IS an assault rifle? To read the article, a WW2 M1 Garand rifle (8 shot clip semi-auto) is or is not an assault rifle (it holds more the 5 rounds)? It is glaringly obvious to anyone who knows guns that this lady is totally clueless. If she knew what she was doing, she would just simply follow the functioning: “chamber-fire-extract-eject-chamber the next round, and so on. But if she wants to ban REAL assault weapons, she should know that real assault weapons have a select-fire feature that enables full auto fire. Anything else is just a look-alike semi auto rifle. Onec politicians are thrown into the mix, they ALWAYS screw things up. If her aim is to stop gun violence, they would make the punishment for criminally using guns so severe that nobody would ever want to be convicted of gun crimes, but no law will stop lunatics or fanatics.

  • James M. August 22, 2016, 4:44 am

    She knows exactly what she is doing. Not only has she done her research, but also has people who are knowledgeable in firearms that she consults with. She knows the difference between an assault rifle/battle rifle, and semiautomatic rifles. She is pushing this legislation banking on the ignorance of the voters of MA. This is not an uneducated person. Matter of fact is that she is highly intelligent. These anti second amendment politicians know exactly what they are doing. And exactly how they need to go about banning certain weapons. Its a plan that will take inches at a time. But in the end firearms will be taken for good. Anyone that thinks for a moment this scum has little knowledge of firearms hasn’t been paying attention. They have Americans right where they want them. It will come to a point where those of us that see through the smoke and mirrors will have to come together and stand up. That i promise. And it’s only an election away. Molon Labe.

    • J.K. August 22, 2016, 9:39 am

      If you swore an oath to uphold the constitution and then argued against the rights provided therein, I would be forced to argue that those acts are treasonous! The constitution protects the people and is what makes the USA a “Free Country” do not be mislead by political agendas. In a communist environment people are forced to rely on the government for almost everything! We are not communist! We are a free people!

    • Wake_Up_America August 26, 2016, 6:33 am

      I fully agree and yes, inches at a time and eventually, guess what, Bingo! Guns will be gone. This is the reason we should not give them an inch, because they will not stop until the got the whole pie so to speak. Criminals are the problem NOT guns, my God.

    • Steve August 26, 2016, 9:16 am

      Exactly. I still fail to see why our organizations (NRA / GOAL) are not fighting on the same ‘level’. Do something MORE

      We have let the label assault weapon become common for the Anti’s, no longer ‘assault style’. The Anti’s say assault weapon and millions of uninformed cry for fear of the next pending massacre and cheer for gun control. What do we do? We fight head on. Change the freak’n definition in the law so that ambiguous law or miss-interpretation can stopped or be appropriately challenged.

      When they say that an ‘assault weapon’ is only for military and only for killing. Blitz the market with spots about the 100,000’s (made up number but you get the point) of competition shooters using this rifle. Humanize these folks as friends and neighbors … .

      • Chief August 26, 2016, 4:32 pm

        I agree , where has the NRA , the GOA been on this issue . Where have they been on BHO’s unCONSTITUTIONAL $2250.00 levy on gunsmiths ? I have not heard a peep . I wish GunsAmerica would do an article on where are they to call attention . I pay my dues yet they keep on lytting these things go like there is nothing they can do or even try ,

  • Flep Vandergaard August 22, 2016, 3:04 am

    A year ago, I left the People’s Republic of Massachusetts for New Hampshire. The onerous gun laws were a critical factor, along with the wastrels on Beacon Hill who wallow in troughs of tax dollars to fund quixotic endeavors. I do not regret my decision, and AG Healey is an all-too-typical Massachusetts bureaucrat that is emboldened by decades of one party rule in that dreadful Commonwealth. She gets away with this sadly because she can. Another fine product of the Kremlin on the Charles, like her Comrade the esteemed Kommisar, erm… Congresswoman Elizabeth “Warpath” Warren. This is the model of the future- so goes Massachusetts today, so goes the Nation tomorrow. Let this be counted among you all here as another ‘Powder Alarm’!

  • Roger Marrs August 21, 2016, 3:25 pm

    Just like the majority of our elected politicians, has no clue what they are talking about. I think before their can actually be any type of Gun Control that will work, we need to have a thorough house cleaning of our elected officials. Mainly the ones that haven’t got a single lick of common sense, that alone will remove ninety percent of them. Look at Obama and Clinton, perfect examples of no common sense at all. How can they possibly create laws, fair laws, without infringing on the common rights of the American People, Law Abiding People? We elected them into their office to do a fair and complete job for us, once they are in there, who are they working for then? What ever happened to IMPEACHMENT?

  • Christian August 21, 2016, 8:38 am

    I admit that I do not understand much about weapons in general, especially on how they are built, what is legal and what is not and all of this stuff and that is why I also like to visit gunsamerica, to learn more about it in general. Yet, again I would like to comment on this matter, as I also did already on 21st July, on the news about Massachusetts banning these so called black rifles.

    Personally, I would go so far as to say this: No matter how the gun looks or how it is built, if it is only semi-automatic it is never an assault rifle to me. Assault rifles have been built to fast attack and conquer enemy trenches, bases etc., you get the idea. They always have been built as fully-automatic, starting with the Sturmgewehr 43, later called Sturmgewehr (or Stg in short) 44, the very first assault rifle in human history. I mean that is what these guns are made for and it is also in their name. If you translate Sturmgewehr directly from German to English language, it says “Storm Rifle”. It is meant to go in fast somewhere, just like a heavy storm, because to me, especially on long ranges, they seem to be nothing more than guns that are good in creating suppressive fire but not for killing a huge number of people in a short time. That statement is to me just a part of anti-gun propaganda. To me, any semi-automatic weapon, even if it has the AR15 style and no matter what kind of parts it got built upon it, is just a rifle but not an assault rifle. And yes, I am against what Attorney General Maura Healey did in banning those guns.

    She stated Orlando in the video. But from what I know so far is that the guy who did it had a huge amount of hate against gays in general, maybe also a mental illness but we will never know about it. I don’t even think that extremist Islam had much to do in this tragedy, unlike in San Bernardino where it did. To me it was a man that was just driven by hate and maybe also by a mental illness, just like many other shooters in history. Again, instead of taking the problem at its roots, the many roots that push someone that down until he decides to go out and kill random people, they infringe the smallest and last matter in something like this: Guns, which are the very last part in the whole thing and nothing more than a tool but never the problem itself.

    I am scared by Mrs. Healey, when she stated in the video at 5:50 that guns like this “have no business being in the hands of civilians”. Who can assure that all the police officers and soldiers are cool enough, when carrying such a weapon? Their guns are also fully-automatic, unlike the versions which civilians can buy. What about the tragedies where police officers shot people that were already tied down by police on the ground and never had a chance to pull a gun? I personally would more trust a normal civilian with a gun, no matter what kind of a gun, than some of the police officers and soldiers. And I am not just talking about the US. I am talking about worldwide in general.

    I just wish that all the people that are against the decision of Mrs. Healey, would not use insults and other words like that to speak against it, although, as an outsider, I fully understand the anger. It would help the credibility of the pro-gun community to express their huge dislike about it in a serious but calm manner. Just my personal opinion as always.

    By the way, it is funny that an actor who plays as Captain America, the comic figure that defends America and its freedom and therefore its constitution, is openly supporting the decision of Attorney General Healey, a decision that clashes totally against the 2nd amendment. So I guess he only played his role for the money, like many actors do today unfortunately.

    • Mike August 22, 2016, 11:20 am

      Dear Christian

      You sir are very bright to do your own research and seem to have a good head on your shoulders to not buy into the political agenda. If you want to know more about the great people the do care I invite you to a forum. It is a bunch of good people that carry and love this country very much. While the gun community has some bad eggs the good majority are decent people. it is a good group of guys and woman that are very knowledgeable and great to listen, learn, and dispute with. Even if you don’t join, you can still go and listen.

      • Christian August 22, 2016, 2:16 pm

        Hello Mike,

        Thank you very much for your encouraging words as well for the link, I am going to check it out! I just want to add that, especially for me being an outsider as well as a non-American, it is important for me to always read my text before I finally publish it. Of course in my country, Germany, I have my own experience with double-tongued politicians and it is always very interesting for me to learn that you guys at the other side of the Atlantic have the same false political agenda to fight against. Keep fighting for your rights!

    • Steve August 26, 2016, 9:29 am

      The fact that Healey’s actions are about a gun not withstanding. She threw out over 20-years of precedent set by the AG’s office and other state entities that have seen to ensure that the law as written and as interpreted was followed. Precedence is a huge deal in addressing new or changes in law or interpretation. I agree with a post above that reminds us that Healey is actually smart. Because she can, she outright lied about gun manufacturers subverting (my term) the law. Gun manufacturers worked with the state to supply a firearm that complied. These two examples are what are in part riling up the masses. Its not anymore as simple if we can use this term as ‘common sense’ its now really about members of a political party using their positions in government to their advantage or to promote not the people’s best interest but only the party’s agenda and then, there own political self interest.

      • Christian August 28, 2016, 11:49 am

        Hello Steve!

        Yes, you are absolutely right. Interpretation of the law is a must in every country on this planet. I personally figured that out when I was reading the Bible, where you have to interpret a lot and I use these new “skills” when I have to write bills of indictment against some government agencies that believe they are God in everything they do and I shall obey them all. And these skills are good for gun manufacturers as well. I mean, we are talking also about jobs, about people with families they have to feed! And I am sure that manufacturing a gun is some kind of an art. If these people lose their jobs because they don’t sell enough anymore as many guns have been banned, they can just leave the state to find a job at another gun manufacturing company and therefore this decision of Attorney General Healey might even be bad for the economy of Massachusetts, no matter how much.

        And yes, politicians that are smart enough to say one thing but do the other without many people even noticing are the most dangerous ones. Funny, something happens in Orlando, Florida and Massachusetts is “taking action”. Why can’t they see the mess that is happening in Chicago, from what I have read so far in numerous postings on this website? Shouldn’t they learn from these gun-free zones as well? Well, I guess Mrs. Healey’s position is of course secure. I hate the fact that there are absolutely no politicians in the world, who do not lose their touch with reality as soon as they are in a high position and then start to misuse their political power, as you have already rightfully written, for their interests instead for the people.

    • Kenny Smith August 27, 2016, 7:49 am

      I think you are right about people bashing the Attorney General maybe not be so loud and cuss so much , I do know the anger but maybe not so bad. Anyway my main reason for my input is about actors who make millions of dollars by handling, shooting and mishandling guns and turn around and go all gun control like Matt Damon for instance .I will never watch another movie with him in it because of his stance on gun control, he acts like a little girl !!!!

      • Christian August 28, 2016, 11:49 am

        Hi Kenny!

        I do admit that when I sometimes read the news I also can freak out. This is human so there is nothing wrong about it. And yes, I do also hate actors that, instead of just acting, start to openly state their political vision. I know it is their right but I also cannot take an actor seriously if he talks against guns, while in movies he is playing the good guy that defeats bad guys with a huge arsenal of guns. Luckily, I have never seen a movie with Matt Damon. The last bad movie I saw was the new Star Wars movie, Disney’s political correctness crap at its finest! In my country, Germany, we have actors like that too who think they are God and can tell us what we the people shall believe and what not, Til Schweiger for example.

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