Massachusetts: Our Assault Weapon Ban was Pointless, so Let’s Ban All Semi-Autos

   07.20.16

Massachusetts: Our Assault Weapon Ban was Pointless, so Let’s Ban All Semi-Autos

Massachusetts has long had a ban on “assault weapons” that mirrors the now expired Clinton-era Assault Weapons Ban. But because these features-based bans are ridiculously easy to circumvent, the state’s Democratic Attorney General has now decreed, apparently by fiat, that there will now effectively be a ban on most semi-automatic long guns in the state.

On Wednesday, we are sending a directive to all gun manufacturers and dealers that makes clear that the sale of these copycat assault weapons is illegal in Massachusetts. 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.

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.

It’s hard to see how this stunt will stand up in court, and I don’t imagine we’ll have to wait very long to find out.

The thing about something like this is the AG doesn’t care if it’s overturned. She’s doing this to harass and vilify lawful gun owners and to grandstand so that when she runs for a higher office she can put this in her campaign ads.

At any rate, I think the most startling thing about this incident is that the AG both in word and in deed has effectively conceded the two primary criticisms that pro-gun people have of all features-based bans: 1) they’re trivial to circumvent, and 2) they don’t meaningfully affect a weapon’s lethality.

Check it out:

They sell guns without a flash suppressor or folding or telescoping stock, for example, small tweaks that do nothing to limit the lethalness of the weapon.

I’m especially surprised to see her concede that the ban on collapsible stocks is totally pointless because I’ve seen numerous examples of gun control advocates insisting that a such a stock makes a weapon more deadly.

Ultimately, what the AG is doing here is taking up the challenge that I put forth at the end of my post-Orlando Vox piece on the AR-15, and that’s this: talk of an “assault weapon ban” or even an “AR-15 ban” is technologically nonsensical, since the weapon can and will be adapted to circumvent any ban, so we might as well just have a conversation about whether we want to ban all semi-auto firearms.

In other words, a semi-auto ban is likely unconstitutional (even if you could find the votes for it in a particular state or at the federal level), but at least it makes some amount of technical sense in light of the reality of modern, modular small arms. So why not frame the conversation as, “should civilians have the right to own semi-auto weapons?” and forget about trying to hit the moving target that is “assault weapons.”

The fact that this deeply undemocratic power grab is taking place in a state whose motto is, “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty,” is painfully ironic, but I at least give her points for essentially conceding that assault weapons bans are ridiculous and impossible.

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