As the nation and media are embroiled in the spectacle of the 2016 Republican National Convention, Massachusetts has quietly banned the sale and production of AR- and AK-style rifles, following a notice issued by state Attorney General Maura Healey (D) warning gun dealers and manufacturers in the state against selling banned “assault weapons,” including what she described as copycat weapons.
The state already has an “assault weapons” ban on the books that specifically bans certain firearms, including the Colt AR-15 and AK-47, along with certain firearm characteristics. Healey said yesterday that her office is stepping up enforcement of the state’s assault-weapons ban following the mass shooting at a gay night club in Orlando.
According to the Eagle Tribune, Healey’s notice clarifies what constitutes a “copy” or “duplicate” weapon under the state’s assault weapons ban. “If the gun’s operating system is essentially the same as a banned weapon—or if the gun has component parts that are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon—it’s a copy, it’s a duplicate, and it’s illegal,” Healey said at a press conference, echoing her written warning. She added that the gun industry has openly defied the law, and that her office has a moral and legal responsibility to enforce it.
Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League said in the story that the group is trying to decipher what the enforcement letter from Healey means. “For nearly 18 years since the passage of the 1998 Gun Control Act, firearms retailers, gun owners, and state agencies have been operating under the same interpretation. Now, suddenly, without warning or any due process a single person with a clear political agenda decides to change the rules,” Wallace said in a statement.
Gun manufacturers have long made various state-compliant models to be sold where laws prohibit certain features, such as flash suppressors or adjustable stocks.
Healey says that isn’t enough in Massachusetts any longer. She also says that firearms cannot be altered to make their sale or possession legal in the state.
According to this post from thetruthaboutguns.com, gun sellers have indeed begun pulling their AR and AK rifles from their shelves.
The notice from Healey assured gun owners that she isn’t coming to seize their “illegal” firearms. “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,” she said.
“Virtually every semi-automatic that utilizes a detachable magazine has the same operating system or firing mechanism, so what does this mean?” Wallace said in this guns.com story. “The short answer is we simply don’t know. Our best advice to firearm retailers for now is to err on the side of caution. These new rules may cover a lot more than just what we might think.”
The National Rifle Association, in an alert from their Institute for Legislative Action issued on Thursday, advised that Healy, ‘has over stepped her boundaries as Attorney General and created a new definition outside of the statute that currently regulates so-called ‘assault weapons’ in Massachusetts,’ and is ‘looking into the legal options available to fight this egregious attack.’
The NSSF also said it is looking into Healey’s action
Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said he doesn’t support he ban but hasn’t issued a public statement on Healey’s actions. However, a change.org petition asking him to block the Attorney General’s actions has gained more than 17,000 supporters at the time of this post.