In the wake of shootings in Orlando, San Bernardino, Newtown and Aurora, on July 20, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued a ban on certain firearms. She sent a notice to all gun sellers and manufacturers that her office would be intensifying enforcement of the state’s ban on assault weapons, including “copycats” of the Colt AR-15 and the Kalishnikov AK-47.
For nearly twenty years, manufacturers have been altering firearms to be outside the ban’s specifications. In fact, Healey’s office estimated that last year, 10,000 of these legal firearms had been purchased by residents of Massachusetts. Healey has assured these residents that they would be able to keep any firearms purchased legally without prosecution. However, moving forward, she made it clear that manufacturers would not be able to make minor adjustments to these firearms to make them legal.
Healey’s reinterpretation of the law includes two tests to determine if the weapon is illegal or not: 1) If the weapon’s internal operating system is basically the same as that of a banned weapon, or 2) If the weapon’s key functional components are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon. It also states that illegal weapons cannot be legally altered and sold or possessed. Additionally, any seller or manufacturer who still has any “copycat” weapons on hand may not legally sell them to Massachusetts residents.
Governor Charlie Baker has expressed his concern about ambiguities in Healey’s notice, and has issued a formal request for additional information to Healey’s office. In his request, Baker stated his apprehension, saying, “a large number of firearms, including pistols that have been sold here legally for decades, may be unintentionally affected.” Specifically, Baker stated that a certain Colt pistol could be considered to have the characteristics of some banned weapons, despite that it has had the same design since 1911.
Governor Baker is greatly concerned that something responsible citizens and manufacturers of Massachusetts had been doing legally for 18 years was suddenly illegal, without advance notice. He also stated that the ban has great potential for confusion among law-abiding citizens, because even if they desire to follow the law, they are not experts in gun design, and may simply not understand what is legal and what is not.
In addition to the potential confusion, Attorney General Maura Healey essentially single-handedly created a ban on weapons that had been completely legal for nearly two decades prior. No new bills were introduced, no new laws were signed. The Second Amendment, which was already being infringed by the initial ban, is now being chipped away more and more in The Bay State by an attorney general who simply decided these weapons were illegal.
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