Massachusetts Cracks Down on 'Copycat' Assault Weapons

by | July 22, 2016

By O'Ryan Johnson

Attorney General Maura Healey stepped up the ban on military-looking rifles yesterday, prompting licensed gun enthusiasts to flood gun shops on what they believed might be the last day to buy AR-style guns here.

Healey issued a notice to all gun sellers and manufacturers in Massachusetts banning guns which appear like the Colt AR-15 and the Kalishnikov AK-47, but have been altered by manufacturers to conform to Massachusetts' ban on adjustable stocks, high-capacity magazines and other features. An estimated 10,000 so-called "copycat" assault weapons were sold in Massachusetts last year alone, Healey's office said.

"The gun industry has openly defied our laws here in Massachusetts for nearly two decades," Healey said. "That ends today. We have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that combat-style weapons are off our streets and out of the hands of those who would use them to kill innocent people.

Cyndi Roy-Gonzalez, spokeswoman for Healey, said the office did not consider how many shootings in Massachusetts have been carried out with assault-style rifles, but insisted the ban is an effective anti-violence measure.

According to FBI statistics, rifles of any variety were used in just two of the Bay State's 779 murders in the past five years, which were mainly carried out with handguns. In that same period, hands and feet were cited as the murder weapon 35 times.

"This isn't a panacea," Roy-Gonzalez said. "This isn't going to solve the issue of gun violence. There's a lot more that needs to be done. There's been a law on the books since 1998. It's up to us to enforce the law. The point is these guns are illegal and 10,000 of them were sold last year alone. ... These are guns that are used all over the country in Aurora, in Baton Rouge, in Dallas, in Orlando. Thankfully, we haven't had the same kind of incidents here."

Healey said stores with existing stock can transfer the weapons out of state where their sale is legal. The move could kill as much as 20 percent of business to some Bay State gun stores, one owner estimates.

"I understand what she's doing. She's saying it's always been the law and now we're enforcing it. It doesn't seem right. She's just reinterpreting the statute," said Jack Gallagher, co-owner of Collector's Gallery, a gun shop in Stoneham. "I'm sure there will be legal challenges from all angles."

While several gun shops yesterday quickly sold out of military-style rifle variants, Gallagher did not sell any on advice of counsel. He said the profit wouldn't outweigh the potential legal headaches.

"If I sold every AR in stock, I'd make a few thousand, but how much is it going to cost me in legal fees down the road," he said.

(c)2016 the Boston Herald