Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey recently announced that her office will be stepping up enforcement of the state’s current assault weapons ban. To this end, a letter was sent to every gun retailer and manufacturer in Massachusetts, advising them that additional scrutiny will be placed on so-called copycat weapons. Healey has long opposed what she called a loophole in the state assault weapons ban, which refers to firearms similar to those on the ban list, but are still state-compliant.
“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 Kalishnikov 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,” her office stated in a press release.
According to Healey, these copycat weapons are functionally identical to banned firearms, with very minor changes such as the removal of a telescoping stock or flash suppressor. However, pro-gun groups say that the firearms the Attorney General is talking about are significantly different than those considered to be assault weapons, and moreover, they are compliant with state laws. Many pro-Second Amendment groups have also called the state’s current assault weapons ban unconstitutional as well.
Healey, for her part, says it is the duty of states to pass gun control legislation if the federal government is unable.
“In the face of utter inaction by Congress, states have a duty to enact and enforce laws that protect people from gun violence. If Washington won’t use its power to get these guns off our streets, we will. Not only do we have the legal authority to do so, we have a moral obligation to do so,” she wrote in an opinion to the Boston Globe.
While Healey intends on increasing enforcement actions against those who make and sell copycat weapons, she says that there is no impending action against gun owners who already possess those weapons—at least not those who purchased those weapons before this week. It is unclear what further measures the attorney general’s office will be taking in the future.
You can watch Healey talk about the new directive below:
You can also read the letter sent out to gun retailers and manufacturers on Tuesday below:
Today the Office of the Attorney General (AGO) is issuing the enclosed Enforcement Notice to provide gun manufacturers, licensed dealers, and the public with greater clarification on the Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban, G.L. c. 140, §§ 128 and 13 IM, and the definition of “Assault weapon” contained in G.L. c. 140, § 121. In particular, this notice provides information on weapons that are prohibited “copies” or “duplicates” of the enumerated Assault weapons that are banned under Massachusetts law. It will be effective as of July 20, 2016.
The AGO will be available as a resource for all gun dealers who have questions about compliance with any provisions of the Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban or this Enforcement Notice. To that end, I invite you to contact my office with any inquiries at 617.963.2775.
We appreciate your hard work and cooperation to ensure public safety and reduce gun violence and illegal gun sales in Massachusetts.
Very truly yours,
Image courtesy the Office of the Massachusetts Attorney General