Gun Shops Fight Ban on Copycat Assault Weapons

     BOSTON (CN) – A firearm industry group and four gun retailers claim in court that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey overstepped her authority by issuing a vaguely worded ban on assault weapons and copycat guns.
     One week after the June 12 Orlando nightclub shooting, Healey issued an enforcement notice outlining the state’s ban on assault weapons, and explaining that “copycat” weapons would also be banned.
     The National Shooting Sports Foundation, Pullman Arms Inc., Guns and Gear LLC, Paper City Firearms LLC and Grrr! Gear Inc. claim in a federal lawsuit that Healey’s regulation is too vague. Their complaint was filed Thursday in Massachusetts federal court.
     Healey defined copycat weapons as those with only slight changes from already banned guns that are tweaked to avoid the regulation. In a press release, the attorney general described two methods by which the state would determine a gun was a copycat.
     “A weapon is a copy or duplicate if its internal operating system is essentially the same as those of a specifically-banned weapon or if the gun has key functional components that are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon,” the release states.
     Details of the assault-weapons ban were outlined in a July 20 enforcement notice.
     Healey issued a follow-up notice that specified which guns were not classified as assault weapons. The notice listed a few specific models and also stated that “any .22 caliber rifle” was exempt from the ban, according to Thursday’s lawsuit.
     The stipulation was confusing for the gun retailers because rifle models that use a .223 caliber bullet were previously considered banned under Healey’s initial notice.
     The attorney general then updated her second notice from listing “any .22 caliber rifle” to rifles that are chambered for a specific type of .22 ammunition, essentially banning the .223 caliber rifles again.
     Meanwhile, the notice allows the sale of a Springfield Armory M1A despite the gun being similar to the MK 14 EBR, which is still used by the U.S. military, the gun retailers claim.
     “As a result, although undefined, if the phrase ‘substantially similar’ refers to commonality in physics principles, then virtually all semiautomatic firearms are substantially similar to the enumerated weapons. In that event, the enforcement notice effectively bans all semi-automatic firearms with the exception of the listed exempt weapons,” the complaint states. “If that is a correct reading of the regulations, they violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution to keep and bear arms because it bans the manufacture, sale and possession of a broad universe of rifles, pistols and shotguns that are commonly owed and used by citizens of Massachusetts for lawful purposes, including self-defense in the home.”
     The lawsuit also criticizes Healey for ignoring the public process before issuing the enforcement notice.
     “The attorney general did not publish any intent to issue the enforcement notice in the Commonwealth Registry,” the complaint states. “The attorney general did not hold any public hearings before the enforcement notice issued to receive comments or any input into the terminology used in the enforcement notice. The attorney general did not follow in any manner the requirements of [the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act] in issuing what constitutes a regulation in the form of the enforcement notice.”
     Healey’s office lauded the regulation for reducing unlawful sales of guns, in an emailed statement from spokesperson Jillian Fennimore.
     “Our enforcement notice has effectively ended the sale of copycat assault weapons in Massachusetts that have been illegal since 1998. It is working,” Fennimore said. “For far too long the gun industry has taken it upon itself to interpret the state’s assault weapons ban to allow these unlawful sales, so it’s no surprise that the gun lobby has challenged our enforcement. We look forward to defending in court our efforts to ensure that residents get the full protection of the law.”
     The National Shooting Sports Foundation and the four gun retailers seek an injunction preventing Healey from enforcing the July 20 notice. They are represented by Christopher Kenney and David Kerrigan of Kenney & Sams in Boston.

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