AG Maura Healey closed loopholes and enforced laws banning the sale of assault rifles in MA. The NRA is fighting back.

(This is the first in a series of posts about Maura Healey’s effort to enforce the ban on assault weapons in MA)

In July 2016 Maura Healey decided it was time to close loopholes created by gun manufacturers that were enabling the sale and possession of assault weapons, despite state laws banning them.  After she notified manufacturers that they would no longer be able to use these loopholes, a group of State Representatives and State Senators sent an open letter to Healey objecting to her enforcement action.  Later, the NRA and the state gun-owners, manufacturers and sellers used their lobbying powers and got legislators to file two pieces of legislation, one would reverse this decision, another would take the power away from Healey to enforce closing loopholes. Several of our own legislators on the Cape signed the letter and sponsored the legislation. The NRA and Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) have also filed a law suit against her that is ongoing.

This is the first of four posts that will explain each of these issues, Healey closing the loophole, the response from legislators, the lawsuit, and legislation filed  to stop closing the loopholes. This is important because the battle to protect us from these assault weapons continues, and we need to make sure we have legislators who are working for US not the gun lobby. We also need to support our Attorney General.

On July 20, 2016 the Boston Globe published an op-ed that laid out Maura Healey’s plan to close loopholes created by gun-manufacturers and sellers to get around our Commonwealth’s ban on assault weapons.  She had issued a directive to gun dealers and manufactures.  At the time she took these actions she was responding to the increasing mass killings at the hands of murderers using these weapons. According to the op-ed:

ORLANDO. BATON ROUGE.  Falcon Heights. Dallas. Baton Rouge again. Five horrific headlines in five weeks. Each story unique in its circumstances but bound by a common thread: human lives taken by a gun.

She was concerned because:

Here in Massachusetts, 10,000 assault weapons were sold just in the last year — each one nearly identical to the rifle used to gun down 49 innocent people in Orlando. In the week after the Pulse nightclub massacre, sales of weapons strikingly similar to the Sig Sauer MCX used at Pulse jumped as high as 450 percent over the previous week — just in Massachusetts.

It’s no surprise the Orlando killer chose an AR-15 style assault rifle. It’s a weapon of war, originally created for combat, and designed to kill many people in a short amount of time with incredible accuracy. It’s in the same category as weapons chosen by killers in Newtown, Aurora, and San Bernardino. These are not weapons of self-defense. They are weapons used to commit mass murder. And they have no business being in civilian hands.

Ten thousand weapons sold and now in our communities – in one year!

As with so many pieces of the debate about gun regulation, the semantics are important, and the semantics are what the gun-lobby and their members like to use in arguments.  Semantics are what gun manufacturers and dealers were using to create a loophole. Healey explained the loophole:

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.

According to the Army Field Manual FM 3-22, a flash suppressor, also known and sold as a flash hider is, “is a device attached to the muzzle of a rifle that reduces its visible signature while firing by cooling or dispersing the burning gases that exit the muzzle, a phenomenon typical of carbine-length weapons.” A flash suppressor does nothing to change the damage the gun inflicts, “[its} primary intent is to reduce the chances that the shooter will be blinded in low-light shooting conditions.”

Telescoping stock allows the gun length to be adjusted and makes the weapon concealable. Again, eliminating this stock does nothing to change what these guns actually do.

Healey issued a directive to manufacturers and dealers in MA that would “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.”

Specifically, she explains:

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.

Healey expected the ban would be challenged in court; she was right. Her directive, designed to protect us from the further proliferation of these weapons in MA, has been challenged by the NRA and Gun Owners Action League (GOAL) in court.  That case is wending its way through the judicial process. Most recently, her office filed to have the case thrown out that was unsuccessful but not surprising.

And, along the way members of GOAL and the NRA continue to show up holding signs and chanting whenever she appears in public.

She persists.

You can find more about Attorney General Healey’s enforcement of the assault weapons laws on her website.

Next – an open letter signed by 58 legislators opposing her enforcement of our laws prohibiting the sale of assault weapons. See that post here.


New York Times photo




Illegal in MA vs altered weapon that had been sold as compliant.


Related posts (the related posts below this post may not be up-to-date, these are more recent)

These are the MA legislators who signed a letter opposing AG s decision to enforce laws banning assault weapons

Did you know 2 Cape and 4 Plymouth district state reps are trying to put guns in schools?

Calls to Action – A Pep Talk! (updated)

Quick and Easy Action! GUNS: A bill allowing abusers to carry concealed state to state and a bill to fix NICS

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