Earlier this week, the Attorney General of Massachusetts announced a kind of “crack-down” on the sales of semi-automatic rifles that she deemed should fall under the state’s “assault” weapons ban.
Attorney General Maura Healey claimed that “The gun industry has openly defied our laws here in Massachusetts for nearly two decades. That ends today.” Except, that’s not the case; not in any way whatsoever.
What Healey classifies as defiance is actually compliance. Since 1998, Massachusetts has had its so-called “assault” weapons ban (which was signed off by Mitt Romney, by the way). The law has defined as assault weapon by name, and if said firearm has certain features, such as:
1. A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any two of the following:
- A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
A folding or telescoping stock.
A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor;
A bayonet lug
2. A semiautomatic pistol that has the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any two of the following:
- A threaded barrel, capable of accepting a flash suppressor
A second handgrip.
A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer
to fire the weapon without burning his or her hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.
The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol grip.
3. A semiautomatic shotgun that has two of the following:
- A folding or telescoping stock.
A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon,
The ability to accept a detachable magazine.
4. Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.
What Healey has decided though is that firearms that simply may become like those that fall under the ban are banned. As one editorial at Fox News reads,
State Attorney General Maura Healey announced this week the state’s more than 30-year-old ban on assault weapons would now be expanded to include rifles that look like, or can be modified to perform like, assault rifles. Healey cited recent mass shootings around the nation in recent years, and said expanding the definition of assault rifles would make citizens safer.
What this amounts to is an executive re-writing of the law. This is not a clarification, it is not a guideline for how to comply with the law, it is a re-writing. The Attorney General has not the authority to modify the law, but merely to enforce and uphold it.
Just think about this for a moment. If Healey’s interpretation was really the intent of the law as passed, why were such firearms still allowed to be sold in the Commonwealth? It’s nonsensical, for if that is what the legislature intended, to ban all forms of semi-automatic rifles that even somewhat resemble AR-15s and the like, there would not have been the need for this sort of executive fiat.
No, if the legislature intended such a completely sweeping ban, there would not be any such firearms in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts manufactured after 1998. But that’s not the case, is it?
This criticism is not merely the conjurings of your humble editorial correspondent. Even some left-leaning media outlets are giving Healey the heat for this move. For example, the editorial board at the Boston Herald slammed her earlier in the week:
Attorney General Maura Healey’s gun control overreach this week sparked a run by buyers on a host of local gun stores. Yes, the AG can now take credit for increasing the number of guns in the AR-15 and AK-47 style now in Massachusetts homes. Way to go!
Assault weapons have essentially been banned in Massachusetts since 1998, but gun manufacturers have managed to make a few largely cosmetic changes to the rifles to make them technically compliant with the law. Last year about 10,000 of those weapons — Healey calls them “copycat” assault weapons — were sold in the state.
Now according to FBI statistics the weapons have been used in only two of the 779 murders committed in the state in the past five years. So hardly a huge problem.
Memo to Healey: If you want to fine-tune the law, get the Legislature to do so. It’s why it exists.
Talk about sass. When left-leaning outlets are throwing shade like this, you know it’s not merely a partisan concern, but one of a greater magnitude that both sides should come together on: the rule of law. I have previously written on the rule of law, and its importance in a free society (and how the FBI’s decision not to recommend prosecution of Hillary undermines it).
Such action on Healey’s part undermines the rule of law as well. She lacks the authority to do this, and multiple major news sources agree. If the legislature wants to consider such a measure, that is up to the legislature. The constitutionality of such a law is an issue for a different editorial, but at least if it were the legislature who made this alteration the rule of law would have been preserved.
But the rule of law need not apply when it comes to private ownership of firearms, right?