Skip to main content

Attorney General Maura Healey has issued a notice to all gun sellers and manufacturers in Massachusetts, warning that her office is stepping up enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban, including a crackdown on the sale of copycat weapons.

The enforcement notice clarifies what constitutes a “copy” or “duplicate” weapon under the assault weapons ban. Copies or duplicates of banned assault rifles, including copies of the Colt AR-15 and the Kalashnikov AK-47, are prohibited by the Massachusetts assault weapons ban. Despite the law, an estimated 10,000 copycat assault weapons were sold in Massachusetts in 2015 alone.

The Attorney General (AG) included that neutered “assault weapons” currently sold in the commonwealth without features like flash hiders, bayonet lugs, collapsible stocks and magazines with a capacity of more than 10 rounds will no longer be on the shelf for sale.

This law has been in place since 1998 and the AG is now interpreting the law a different way after 18 years -- saying private business no longer have the right to sell certain items.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended for You

The Free Thought Project interviewed Jim Wallace, Executive Director of Gun Owners Action League in Northborough, who said, "She sprang it on everybody, it happened overnight, we didn't know anything about, the legislature didn't know anything about it. The enforcement agencies didn't know anything about it. It's a new interpretation by the Attorney General. It's not a new law, it's a new interpretation of a law that's been around since 1998."

The Free Thought Project called the AG's office to ask questions on how this is constitutional. Predictably, we were given the run-around on hold, transferred for 10 minutes and then given an e-mail to contact.

From the opinion piece written by the AG in this morning’s Boston Globe:

"The Massachusetts assault weapons ban mirrors the federal ban Congress allowed to expire in 2004. It prohibits the sale of specific weapons like the Colt AR-15 and AK-47 and explicitly bans “copies or duplicates” of those weapons. But gun manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to define what a “copy” or “duplicate” weapon is. They market “state compliant” copycat versions of their assault weapons to Massachusetts buyers. They sell guns without a flash suppressor or folding or telescoping stock, for example, small tweaks that do nothing to limit the lethalness of the weapon.

That will end now. 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. 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.

The directive specifically outlines two tests to determine what constitutes a “copy” or “duplicate” of a prohibited weapon. If a gun’s operating system is essentially the same as that of a banned weapon, or if the gun has components that are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon, it’s a “copy” or “duplicate,” and it is illegal. Assault weapons prohibited under our laws cannot be altered in any way to make their sale or possession legal in Massachusetts.

We recognize that most residents who purchased these guns in the past believed they were doing so legally, so this directive will not apply to possession of guns purchased before Wednesday. In the dozen years since the federal assault weapons ban lapsed, only seven states have instituted their own assault weapons ban. Many of those bans have been challenged (unsuccessfully) by the gun industry, and we anticipate our directive may be too. But our job is to enforce state laws and to keep people safe. This directive does both."

With more events like Dallas and Baton Rouge occurring, lawmakers will take ignoring the constitution and the people to a whole new level. Expect more of this to come in the future. More laws and more protection for government officials means the people will be the ones to suffer.