Massachusetts Attorney General Rewrites The Law To Ban More Guns

posted on July 26, 2016
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey apparently thinks she’s above the law.

Either that, or she thinks that among Massachusetts attorneys general over the past 18 years, she—alone—understands the meaning of that state’s 1998 ban on so-called “assault weapons.”

Last Wednesday, Healey issued a so-called “enforcement notice” to firearm dealers in the Bay State in which she unilaterally announced that, effective immediately, sales of semi-automatic rifles that were perfectly legal in the state on Tuesday would be illegal on Thursday.

In other words, Massachusetts AG Healey simply redefined the law—at whim and at will by executive fiat—to mean whatever she says it means.

Sound familiar? It should. It’s just the latest example of executive-branch overreach by anti-gun Democrats that stretches from President Barack Obama and all his anti-gun executive orders right back to President Bill Clinton, who in 1998 unilaterally banned the import of 58 types of firearms. 

At the time, Clinton’s so-called “gun czar,” Rahm Emanuel—who went on to become President Obama’s chief of staff—bragged, “We're bending the law as far as we can to ban an entirely new class of guns.” 

If she were honest and forthright, that’s exactly what Healey would have said about her edict. 

A bit of background is in order here. In 1998, Massachusetts imposed a ban on semi-automatic firearms that mirrored the federal ban that was signed by President Clinton in 1994, and that expired under a so-called “sunset provision” in 2004 when it became clear that the ban had no effect on violent crime. 

Unlike the federal ban, the Massachusetts ban contained no such “sunset provision,” which meant that it remained in effect indefinitely.“We’re bending the law as far as we can to ban an entirely new class of guns.” — Rahm Emanuel

However, just like the federal ban, the Massachusetts ban was based largely on cosmetics.

What that meant was that if a particular firearm lacked some of the specifically banned cosmetic features that supposedly made the firearms so dangerous—such as a flash suppressor or a folding or telescoping stock—then the firearm was not illegal, and could be legally sold. 

So in Massachusetts, as in California and other states, firearms were offered for sale that were “state compliant,” with their designs modified to comply with state laws by removing flash suppressors, or pistol grips, or forward grips, or bayonet lugs, or a “thing that goes up.” 

After all, legislative intent is legislative intent. And if having a “thing that goes up” is what makes a firearm so evil, mean and icky, then firearms that lack “things that go up”—or any of the other features that were specifically banned—are legal ... right? 

Wrong, apparently, according to Massachusetts AG Healey.

Writing in the Boston Globe, Healey called such firearms “copycat assault weapons” and directed that henceforth—again, without any vote by the statehouse in Boston or any other legislative nicety—such firearms would be illegal in Massachusetts. 

And here’s the crowning arrogance: Not only did Healey dictate that firearms that have been perfectly legal under the Massachusetts ban for the past 18 years are suddenly illegal, she also wrote herself what amounts to a blank check to ban whatever she wants in the future under the law. As she wrote in the Boston Globe

“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.”

Does that mean any firearm that goes “bang” is banned? Or only those firearms with a hammer and a trigger?What, exactly, does it mean to say “a gun’s operating system is essentially the same as that of a prohibited weapon”? What is the meaning of “essentially the same”? 

Does that mean any firearm that goes “bang” is banned? Or only those firearms with a hammer and a trigger? Or does it mean that only firearms with semi-automatic actions are banned? And if so, are all semi-automatic firearms banned—since their operating systems are “essentially the same” as those of black guns? 

Here’s the upshot: If anti-gun Democrats can’t decide what it is, exactly, about a particular firearm that fills them with such fear and hatred to ban it, then they have no business—and no legal authority—arbitrarily expanding those bans at whim and at will through executive fiat and diktat

And it’s no wonder that the Massachusetts attorney general didn’t try to back up her overreaching dictate with any facts, figures or statistics to support it. 

After all, as Healey admitted, some “10,000 assault weapons were sold just in the last year” in Massachusetts—and yet, according to the FBI, in 2014, the most recent statistics available, not a single person was murdered in Massachusetts with a rifle of any kind, let alone a so-called “assault rifle.”

In fact, the number of murders committed with rifles in Massachusetts was zero in 2010, zero in 2011, zero in 2012, two in 2013, and zero in 2014—meaning that over the past five years, rifles were used in about one-quarter of 1 percent of the 779 murders committed in Massachusetts in that timeframe. 

In other words, over the past five years, your chances of being murdered with a rifle in Massachusetts were roughly equal to your chances of either being run over by a police car or killed by an airborne manhole cover

To put it another way, as Joseph Constance, deputy chief of the Trenton, N.J., police department, told the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in 1993 when it was debating the Clinton gun ban: “Since police started keeping statistics, we now know that assault weapons are/were used in an underwhelming .026 of 1 percent of crimes in New Jersey. This means that my officers are more likely to confront an escaped tiger from the local zoo than to confront an assault rifle in the hands of a drug-crazed killer on the streets.” 

The simple fact is, despite being the most popular-selling firearm in American today, so-called “assault rifles”—actually just semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 and AK-47—are very, very rarely used in crimes, not just in Massachusetts but in the U.S. overall. Again, according to the FBI, over the past five years, less than 2.5 percent of all murders were committed with rifles of any kind—of which so-called “assault rifles” are a subset. By comparison, more than twice as many Americans were murdered with fists and feet. 

Which means that this “ban by executive fiat” by Massachusetts AG Healey is just more cynical political grandstanding that fails the sniff test. 

It also gives a good glimpse of the kind of gun-hating executive overreach you can expect if Hillary Clinton—who vows to ban so-called “assault rifles,” who says the U.S. Supreme Court “was wrong” to rule that the Second Amendment guarantees your individual right, and who vows to continue the Obama strategy of using executive orders to attack the right to keep and bear arms—wins the White House on Nov. 8. 

Consider yourself warned.


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