NRA Sues Massachusetts Over ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban

Maura Healey (Photo: WGBH)

A group of gun rights advocates backed by the National Rifle Association has sued Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey over the state’s 1998 “assault weapon” ban and Healey’s 2016 directive that cracked down on “copycat” firearms.

“Massachusetts prohibits firearms it pejoratively defines as ‘assault weapons,’ which is a non-technical, entirely fabricated, and political term of uncertain definition and scope,” the 33-page lawsuit contends.

The suit also takes issue with Healey’s directive last year that banned the sale of “copycat” rifles. These rifles had been modified to adhere to the 1998 ban by removing the adjustable stocks or the muzzle devices.

Healey’s unilateral order called for an end to the sale of these rifles but failed to provide sufficient guidance for gun dealers trying to comply with the directive.

In this week’s lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued that Healey’s action “broadly expands the statutory definition far beyond what had been for almost 20 years the settled custom and practice.”

The complaint says Healey’s directive “upends decades of settled custom and practice in Massachusetts, retroactively criminalizes decades of legal behavior and transactions” and “exposes the plaintiffs and other gun owners to criminal penalties for exercising their Second Amendment rights.”

Lawsuits have been filed in federal court against other states with “assault weapon” bans, including New York, Connecticut, and Maryland, without success.

But in light of Donald Trump’s victory and the opportunity to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia with another pro-Second Amendment judge, gun advocates have reason to be hopeful.

If this suit can work its way through the lower federal courts and be heard by the Supreme Court, the pro-gun community has an opportunity to score a massive victory, one that could lead to the repeal of other “assault weapon” bans in other states.

Jay Porter, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, certainly seems to be thinking along these lines. He told the Boston Globe that their case rests on the idea that AR-15s and AK-47s cannot be banned because they are in common use, an idea upheld by the Supreme Court and Justice Scalia in D.C. v. Heller:

“Our position is that the state doesn’t have the authority under the Second Amendment to ban firearms that are commonly kept by responsible law abiding citizens for lawful purposes. … The Supreme Court has told us emphatically that the government cannot ban popular firearms which are commonly kept for lawful purposes.”

“The level of hostility to the gun-owning public in the state of Massachusetts has grown to be intolerable,” Porter added. “At this point, it had grown to the level where litigation had become necessary. At some point, if you have a fundamental right, you have to protect it.”

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

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Recce1 September 15, 2018, 6:22 pm

    Ruppert, you want to throw people in prison for violating people’s rights under the Constitution, yet you seem to know nothing about the Constitution or Constitutional Law. How is that constitutionally right?

  • Tom Horn January 28, 2017, 11:44 am

    I wonder if the way around these unconstitutional state laws, is to form a militia (certainly legal under 2A). A militia, being a federally protected military organization by nature, should be exempt from any laws imposed by states on the civilian population (not that 2A isn’t enough, but it does not seem to be in some states).

    As a federally protected military organization, you could reasonably be expected to have firearms of a military nature. I would like to hear Alan Korwin’s take on the matter. In the mean time, get together with a few friends and form a militia.

    • Tom Horn January 28, 2017, 11:57 am


      “Officer, I am a member of the Massachusetts Minuteman Militia, a federally protected militia, and as such, these firearms are federally protected.”

  • The Millionth Council January 28, 2017, 1:03 am

    Politicians aren’t hired. They are elected. As long as citizens or should I say subjects of that state continue to elect people like their AG, Ted Kennedy, and Elizabeth Warren, they are going to get what’s coming to them and that is more gun bans.

  • Daniel Blais January 27, 2017, 3:29 pm

    I live in Massachusetts and I can tell you there are a lot of pro gun/Second Amendment citizens here. Don’t give up on us yet! Our cowardly AG Mora Healey and our spineless governor Charlie Baker never would have tried to pull a stunt like this if Antonin Scalia we’re still here! Can’t wait for Trump to appoint the 9th Supreme Court Justice

  • Ruppert Jenkkins January 27, 2017, 2:46 pm

    The one and only thing these freedom-hating Democrat pols are afraid of, is prison.
    They don’t care about lawsuits. They don’t care if their states lose money. Their irrational hatred of guns, and the lies they tell about them and their owners, has made them blind to reason.
    But, if we are able to throw a few of these Democrats in PRISON, for violating rights, then and only then will we get their attention.
    People such as Gov Brown, and Lt. Gov Newsom, need to be tried and convicted of either treason, or human rights violations. And then they need at least 3 years in state prison. Watch: other Democrats will start to get the message, that we Americans will not tolerate the slow-motion destruction of the US Constitution.

    • Tom Horn January 29, 2017, 7:31 am

      Yeah, I don’t get it, how making laws that violate our Constitution is not a treasonable offense?

      Imagine if some law maker were trying to pass laws that violated the 13th Amendment (abolish slavery + involuntary servitude), instead of 2A. The liberals would bring back, ‘drawing & quartering,’ for that law maker.

      There was a time when even the Democrats recognized and defended our 2A rights. What happened here?

  • ~ Occams January 27, 2017, 1:20 pm

    Now sue Kalifornia for it’s consummate, unconstitutional stupidity, with it’s new ‘featureless rifle law’ and non-detachable magazine, where the rifle must be disassembled to remove the clip.

    • Rigert Jonikklins January 27, 2017, 5:23 pm

      Just do what most of we AR owners in CA are now doing: IGNORE the f’in laws.

      Unconstitutional laws are not real laws.

  • Rich January 27, 2017, 12:22 pm

    I was born and raised in MA, and got out as soon as I could. The residents there are simply getting exactly what they voted for. I’m actually surprised that the NRA is wasting time defending the rights of people that refuse to defend them for themselves.

  • Steve January 27, 2017, 11:08 am

    It’s long overdue that fascist states like Massachusetts get brought to heal. Sorry, just because the state is packed with, uneducated in firearm, liberals, doesn’t mean laws can be passed to circumvent the constitution. The 10 round limit on magazines should be next. The NRA has truly done something about this illegal action by the attorney general of Ma. and it’s governor. G.o.a.l., has got to get it going. For they are a Ma state organization. I’m aware donations are thin from residents of Ma. They won’t see the problem until it’s too late. The state should be judged to compensate gun store owners for lost income. That wi;ll keep their focus in a legal direction!

    • Dan January 27, 2017, 9:33 pm

      Steve, I live in MA and moved here for work 20 years ago. Let me correct you on a few items. The state is not packed with the uneducated ‘in firearm’. Gun owners here are far more educated about the laws here than any place else I’ve seen. Mostly because we have to be. Healy simply sent a fax, letter and email to each dealer in the state late one evening about six months ago. We are a pretty savvy group and usually know when something is coming, but literally overnight she issued a ‘determination’ that these guns referred to as ‘black guns’ could no longer be sold. By the end of the day there were lines out the doors of gun shops with people buying what was later defined as, ‘any long gun with a removable magazine’. The gun dealers are competitive here, but not a single one that we knew of gouged any clients. They didn’t have to, the walls and cases were empty with 24 hours. They made a shit ton of money but also knew that it was a one shot deal. They would be losing money going forward. Steve, you are absolutely right, many of these shops are working on a thin margin and while it’s tough to calculate what they lost from the banned long guns, something strange happened. These guys are a pretty savvy bunch and the ‘mandate’ (she can’t make laws, but the c**t did this while the House was in recess) was not very clear, but what was clear is nobody can sell or transfer the weapons in the Commonwealth.

      So the dealers are now pretty flush with these amazing AR type weapons, all manner of SKS, AK, etc. some still in plastic and cosmoline, and the pricing is obscene. These things came out of the woodwork in amazing numbers, but while still new and unfired, they are 30 year old weapons. It is legal to sell them because they are grandfathered before the Brady bill, but they also have to have been manufactured BEFORE the federal law was passed. So, it’s a safe bet that with this mandate in place, no shop owner will sell any of these weapons other than on consignment. It’s too risky to lose their business and license along with a $5,000 fine per weapon. It’s a really shitty thing that the guys who had hoarded these weapons for whatever reason, and I’m glad they did, but $2,500 for an M16 is something that won’t attract many buyers. That’s the part that pisses me off, sure they had these weapons in storage for three decades, some still had a $399 price tag on them, but don’t take this as an opportunity to screw your fellow gun owners. Regarding the 1998 ban on handguns to a 10 round mag doesn’t really bother too many of us. If you’re carrying a wheel gun it’s not an issue, and any 1911 in .45 only has held 7 or 8 rounds since they were invented, I think. Do you really feel safer with an 18 round mag? Hey, I know it’s a matter of principle and preference and none of us like idiotic rules. I think the general consensus is that this will be eradicated soon.

      I’m an independent and let me explain your other misconception. 70% of the population lives within 25 miles of the State House and you are correct that the liberals are sickening in their hypocracy. If you look at the map, that leaves about 80% of the state as rural, beautiful and we are chock full of hunters. Steve, the five largest US weapons manufacturers are within a 200 mile radius. Look it up. Steve, you couldn’t be more wrong about the donations we made to GOAL. Steve, there was not a law that was passed. Understand? Yes, there was a direct affront to 2A just as there is in Chicago, NYC, Philly. You can’t possess a firearm within those city limits, there are exceptions but not many. We believe because of the way this situation happened, no authority, no legal standing, etc. that it will be over soon. Steve, know your facts before you refer to us as not being aware of what’s going on until it’s too late. Steve, do you know when the first gun control law in the country was invoked? Right here in Concord, MA April 18, 1775. The British were coming to confiscate our guns that were hidden in a church basement. Steve, that was the ‘shot heard round the world’ and we died in the street defending our rights. Did that happen in your town Steve? When you say idiotic things like we are unaware, that says far more about you than us. You are just another moron who doesn’t know their history and is stupid enough to post your ignorance for us to laugh at. Steve, as the only city who shed blood when they came for our guns, let me remind you of another perspective that I and we lived through.

      The awful terrorist attack during the Boston Marathon was horrific. In the following days, we had no idea who to look for. But, the fantastic work of our LE community tracked these bastards down. Steve, we are a major city, population in the surrounding area is about 8,000,000. That’s a lot of people Steve. When you hear the emergency broadcast system come on in the middle of a sunny day and you are told to ‘shelter in place’ how many of those people changed their minds about owning a weapon for protection in that moment. It’s never happened in our country until then, there were sirens and LE of all stripes who went to Defcon 5. 40 miles away. from the city, LE was in their armored riot vehicles in every town and borough you could think of. Their weapons were out because there was an insane car chase through very populated areas and gun fire. It was agreed by most professional disaster coordinators that this was a dress rehearsal for martial law will probably look like. It was ugly, scary and real. Thankfully it ended with idiot #2 running over his own brother idiot #1. There is a very good documentary on Netflix, comprised only of live news reports. Watch the show Steve. Then see if you still have the same opinion of us being unaware. I was exactly where I wanted to be, with my family and sheltered in place, and ready. Lots of us were. Lots of minds changed during those three days.

      So in closing, Steve. Unless you’re on the ground here, you have no idea the implications of removing legal weapons from citizens who were well within the law and well within their rights to bear the arms we do have. Just like you saw the snowflakes and whiners occupying cities a few years in 2011-12 complaining about globalization, and just like you saw Hilary ignore the people in rural areas, they underestimated our resolve. This ‘modification’ in 2016 was an example of one person, no authority to mandate a drinking fountain, turned us on our ear. Nobody knew but her and the governor. Remember Steve, just because you don’t see lawful gun owners rioting in the streets about this unenforceable act, does not mean we don’t have an organized plan to push back. The need to protect ourselves from terrorists actually happened here Steve, until you’ve been through it and the people who were anti-gun were sheltering with no protection. Many minds changed. Hell no we don’t accept what she did, and we have the law and the constitution on our side. Steve, your comment about us just accepting this laying down is what pissed me off. Sadly I felt the obligation to educate you on the history of resistance we have here, our non-hesitation to die for our rights, and we were the guinea pig for the rest of the country for what modern martial law would look like. You can thank us later. Do yourself a favor Steve, educate yourself about history, don’t presume anything you haven’t experienced, and for the love of God whatever device you used to send your message, I assure you there is a button for spell check. Turn it on, Steve. It won’t help you with lovely statements like bringing someone to ‘heal’. That’s what Dr.s do. The rest of us use the word ‘heel’. Stop breathing through your mouth, Steve and straighten your tin foil hat. Have a nice day.

      • Tom Horn January 28, 2017, 10:51 am

        Dan, you wrote: ” Do you really feel safer with an 18 round mag? Hey, I know it’s a matter of principle and preference and none of us like idiotic rules.”

        We feel safer to choose a firearm that has 6 round capacity, or 18 round capacity, as is all Americans’ 2A Right. And, someone there is voting these idiots into office, and they would probably fit Steve’s description as, “uneducated in firearm, liberals.” Don’t feel bad. You don’t have a monopoly on them.

        Also, I agree with you about the great job law enforcement did during the Boston Marathon Bombing aftermath. Others do not, and I see some of their points as valid:

        • Dan January 28, 2017, 7:54 pm

          Thanks Tom. As many people point out, MA has no monopoly on anti-firearm proponents. What I noticed over the years is that the Kennedy Liberal population is thankfully aging into the ether. However Their power was unimaginable in the 50 year tenancy of a strong Kennedy candidate. Literally, walk into the voting booth and pull the lever on the left. Done. five out of the past six Governors were Republicans. I have no explanation for that one. For every Scott Brown, there are 10,000 Elizabeth Warrens. Sadly with the voting populace as it is, being a Republican really is an unwise choice for a candidate.

          So, I changed my affilliation as most non-conforming people do to Independent. That means I get to vote in any election I choose. During the Democrat primary I voted for Bernie as to attempt to offset Hilary. Then I got to make a choice the following week for a Republican candidate. I felt like I made a difference, nationally with my votes. When I read what people said the we deserve what we got because we elected these candidates, is an exact analogy that I would explain to deep thinkers Steve. Assuming he didn’t vote for Obama, I can then say with 100% clarity that ‘Hey, you elected him you got what you deserved’ and after his head exploded in rage, and we picked up the tin foil, he would declare that he certainly did not vote for our past president. Hopefully he would realize that I didn’t vote for these people in MA either, so neither of us voted for a winning candidate. But are we responsible for what they did? Of course not. A point of clarification for anybody else who continues to weigh in on what happened in MA by our AG. She is not elected. She is appointed. Therefore as she was appointed, not elected. she can be un-appointed as well. That is our goal. That simple.

          The 2a amendment is problematic. It was ratified in the 18th century. The number of rounds you can carry are not mentioned, flame throwers are not mentioned, potato guns are not mentioned, mental capacity is not mentioned…. you see where I’m headed with this. Keeping and bearing arms is not defined. Daniel Webster was there at the time, but hadn’t gotten around to writing his dictionary. Eventually, he defined ‘Arms’ as “…anything that a man wears for his defense, or takes in to his hands as a weapon.” To wit: ‘armed with a knife, armed with a hammer, armed with a bat, armed with a spoon.. ad nauseum. That was the definition then as it still is now. Blacks’ Law Dictionary uses the same defintion. Thank God ‘gun’ was not included in the document, that etymology is hilarious if your bored because it comes from the 13th century and alludes to a woman in a bad mood with an engine of war thowing rocks and missiles. lol, lol but that’s what it meant. Who knew?

          So, in the strict definition of 2a, it doesn’t look good for those of us who interpret that our firearms are included, the reality is they are not mentioned. 2a sounded good, but now not so much. I sincerely don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing. I have firmly believed that this is my right and continue to do so, but I have learned to pick my battles wisely. So this travesty that Healy handed to us with no discussion at all will not likely stand. That’s my opinion. I believe that 2a actually isn’t the argument, in fact 2a doesn’t belong in the argument. I actually have to stop saying ‘argument’ because there isn’t one. The AG is not empowered to make laws. I want that to be the clear cut, 21st century language that is enforced. Keep guns out of the discussion completely. Literally, she could have done the exact same thing with lawn mowers. Who the hell would have listened? There is no shortage of non-residents who say they would ignore this pronouncement, and that we are cowards, etc., stand-up for ourselves. If you have the belief in your rights, I challenge anyone of you to go in to any gun store in this Commonwealth, and try to find one of the affected guns. Gun shop owners can be an ornery lot if you act like jerk. They will not sell the weapons because they will end up losing their business, fined, almost certainly prison. Think they’ll risk that for you? Will you raise the issue, sell your AR through the normal process to another person like we still do every day with other guns? Find a FFL that will process it son. I don’t believe anyone has been arrested yet because the ambiguity isn’t worth it. Hey, maybe you should do exactly what you are calling us out on and let us know how things work out for you. Hell, you may even solve the whole damn situation if you win in court because then ‘they’ will have to explain themselves. I’d vote for us to name a county after you, get a Kickstarter fund going. You have to go first though. Remember this should not be a 2a decision, this should be a position of and or authority overreach decision. Our guns and lawnmowers are on the line……because if you go in that direction, they will decide on a definition of arms, and I did the home work for you on that one. Just don’t be that guy who we all know that says we don’t have to pay taxes ’cause it ain’t in the constitution’. By God he was right too….until 1913 when Congress ratified the 16th amendment in response. They made it crystal clear. Thanks to that guy.

          Don’t make it about 2a, because at that time in history it made sense. Our argument is 300 years old, Slavery was still legal, burning of witches was not discouraged, and yes taxes could voluntarily be paid, and most business owners did. Here we are standing by a 300 year old law, and the people I align with self defined what arms were. That’s some sandy soil were standing on. I don’t have the answer, but we are going to be smart in our response and believe that the lack of any authority, implied or otherwise doesn’t exist. So when you see a MA plate in your travels, if you see a Save our Lawnmowers ‘bumpa sticka’, you’ll be in on the secret……….shhhh

  • John D. January 27, 2017, 7:54 am

    It’s a shame the NRA couldn’t get worked up enough to challenge NY’s Safe Act, which is as bad as anything Massachusetts has come up with.

  • badbob January 27, 2017, 5:24 am

    The Constitution gives the Federal government 30 jobs to preform. With over 2,000 government agencies they still do those 30 chores badly or not at all. But I guess we have out grown or something the laws for treason. Never has any elected president used death and carnage to achieve an agenda. especially one denying us our god given rights. If we did our duty as Americans these people making the laws would be the ones filling our prisons No law going against the Constitution is enforceable. At least that is how our founders set it up. These branch bait tyrants make King George look like a patriot. The more they can take will only make them take more . Forget these law suits. What’s required is a short rope and a strong limb tree.Make sure they rot from the tree as a warning to anyone taking their place.

    • AGK76 January 27, 2017, 11:53 am

      “The Constitution gives the Federal government 30 jobs to preform.”

      I can think of 4. Deliver the mail, defend the shores, provide the states a single face to the rest of the world through the State Dept, and just enough interstate commerce oversight to assure things are standard (like electrical plugs) between states, and to keep the states from going to war with each other. Beyond that, stay out….

  • Dale Francis January 27, 2017, 4:01 am

    Another one of those women that don’t know her ass from a hole in the ground.

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