Massachusetts to Crack Down on Copy Cat Assault Weapons

Citing her moral obligation to do so, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced on Wednesday efforts to close a long-standing loophole in the state’s assault weapons ban.

In an editorial in the Boston Globe and a press conference later that day, Healey outlined the directive her office sent to all gun manufacturers and dealers in the state to crack down on the sale of copy cat assault-style rifles.

Although the state has an assault weapons ban that mirrored the expired federal law during the Clinton Administration, gun makers have found a loophole by producing with so-called copy cat weapons with interchangeable parts. But no longer, Healey said. 

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“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,” said the attorney general, referring to the practice of gun makers deciding whether their guns met the standards of the law. In a review of existing gun markets, Healey said in many cases they did not.

The new directive will not apply to weapons already sold, she said. And whether the gun is determined a copy cat comes down to two factors, Healey said, although that too was not so clear.

“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,” she wrote. “Assault weapons prohibited under our laws cannot be altered in any way to make their sale or possession legal in Massachusetts.”

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During the press conference on Wednesday Healey said her office was merely changing the way it enforced an existing law that’s been on the books since 1998. The move will admittedly draw the ire of gun rights groups, but Healey said her office was prepared to defend their recent directive. 

“In the face of utter inaction by Congress, states have a duty to enact and enforce laws that protect people from gun violence,” she wrote. “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.”

Just six other states and the District of Columbia have similar assault-style weapons bans. As a growing number of states enacted open carry laws, in June, Hawaii became the first state to put all gun owners in a database.

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