Attorney General Maura Healey has issued a notice to all gun sellers and manufacturers in Massachusetts, warning that her office is stepping up enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban, including a crackdown on the sale of copycat weapons.
The enforcement notice clarifies what constitutes a “copy” or “duplicate” weapon under the assault weapons ban. Copies or duplicates of banned assault rifles, including copies of the Colt AR-15 and the Kalishnikov AK-47, are prohibited by the Massachusetts assault weapons ban. Despite the law, an estimated 10,000 copycat assault weapons were sold in Massachusetts in 2015 alone.
Today the Office of the Attorney General (AGO) is issuing the enclosed Enforcement Notice to provide gun manufacturers, licensed dealers, and the public with greater clarification on the Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban, G.L. c. 140, §§ 128 and 13 IM, and the definition of "Assault weapon" contained in G.L. c. 140, § 121. In particular, this notice provides information on weapons that are prohibited "copies" or "duplicates" of the enumerated Assault weapons that are banned under Massachusetts law. It will be effective as of July 20, 2016.
The AGO will be available as a resource for all gun dealers who have questions about compliance with any provisions of the Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban or this Enforcement Notice. To that end, I invite you to contact my office with any inquiries at 617.963.2775.
We appreciate your hard work and cooperation to ensure public safety and reduce gun violence and illegal gun sales in Massachusetts.
Very truly yours,
PROHIBITED ASSAULT WEAPONS
The Office of the Attorney General (AGO) is issuing this Enforcement Notice to provide a framework to gun sellers and others for understanding the definition of “Assault weapon” contained in G.L. c. 140, § 121 (“Section 121”). In particular, this notice provides guidance on the identification of weapons that are “copies” or “duplicates” of the enumerated Assault weapons that are banned under Massachusetts law.
This guidance will be applied to future transfers of “Assault weapons,” as that term is defined in Section 121. This may include, without limitation, the AGO’s enforcement of criminal laws such as G.L. c. 140, §§ 128 and 131M, and civil laws such as G.L. c. 93A.
The sale, transfer, or possession of an “Assault weapon,” as defined in Section 121, is unlawful pursuant to G.L. c. 140, §§ 128 and 131M.
“Assault weapon” is defined as a:
semiautomatic assault weapon as defined in the federal Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, 18 U.S.C. section 921(a)(30) as appearing in such section on September 13, 1994, and shall include, but not be limited to, any of the weapons, or copies or duplicates of the weapons [emphasis added], of any caliber, known as:1
- Avtomat Kalashnikov (AK) (all models);
- Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil;
- Beretta Ar70 (SC-70);
- Colt AR-15;
- Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR and FNC;
- SWD M-10, M-11, M-11/9 and M-12;
- Steyr AUG;
- INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9 and TEC-22; and
- revolving cylinder shotguns, such as, or similar to, the Street Sweeper and Striker 12;
provided, however, that the term assault weapon shall not include:
- any of the weapons, or replicas or duplicates of such weapons, specified in appendix A to 18 U.S.C. section 922 as appearing in such appendix on September 13, 1994, as such weapons were manufactured on October 1, 1993;
- any weapon that is operated by manual bolt, pump, lever or slide action;
- any weapon that has been rendered permanently inoperable or otherwise rendered permanently unable to be designated a semiautomatic assault weapon;
- any weapon that was manufactured prior to the year 1899;
- any weapon that is an antique or relic, theatrical prop or other weapon that is not capable of firing a projectile and which is not intended for use as a functional weapon and cannot be readily modified through a combination of available parts into an operable assault weapon;
- any semiautomatic rifle that cannot accept a detachable magazine that holds more than five rounds of ammunition; or
- any semiautomatic shotgun that cannot hold more than five rounds of ammunition in a fixed or detachable magazine.
Section 121 incorporates by reference the definition of “semiautomatic assault weapon” in the former federal assault weapons ban. This establishes that in Massachusetts weapons with the following characteristics are also within the definition of Assault weapon:2
18 U.S.C. section 921(a) (30) as appearing in such section on September 13, 1994:
B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of—
- a folding or telescoping stock;
- a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
- a bayonet mount;
- a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
- a grenade launcher;
(C) a semiautomatic pistol that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of—
- an ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip;
- a threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer;
- a shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned;
- a manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded; and
- a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm; and
(D) a semiautomatic shotgun that has at least 2 of—
- a folding or telescoping stock;
- a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
- a fixed magazine capacity in excess of 5 rounds; and
- an ability to accept a detachable magazine.
Under the Commonwealth’s statutory definition, the following are “Assault weapons”:
- Weapons on the list enumerated in G.L. c. 140, § 121, such as the Colt AR-15 (“Enumerated Weapons”);
- “Copies” or “Duplicates” of the Enumerated Weapons (“Copies or Duplicates”); and
- Weapons with certain features as identified in former 18 U.S.C. § 921(a) (30) (“Features Test”).
A weapon is a Copy or Duplicate and is therefore a prohibited Assault weapon if it meets one or both of the following tests and is 1) a semiautomatic rifle or handgun that was manufactured or subsequently configured with an ability to accept a detachable magazine, or 2) a semiautomatic shotgun.3
- Similarity Test: A weapon is a Copy or Duplicate if its internal functional components are substantially similar in construction and configuration to those of an Enumerated Weapon. Under this test, a weapon is a Copy or Duplicate, for example, if the operating system and firing mechanism of the weapon are based on or otherwise substantially similar to one of the Enumerated Weapons.
- Interchangeability Test: A weapon is a Copy or Duplicate if it has a receiver that is the same as or interchangeable with the receiver of an Enumerated Weapon. A receiver will be treated as the same as or interchangeable with the receiver on an Enumerated Weapon if it includes or accepts two or more operating components that are the same as or interchangeable with those of an Enumerated Weapon. Such operating components may include, but are not limited to: 1) the trigger assembly; 2) the bolt carrier or bolt carrier group; 3) the charging handle; 4) the extractor or extractor assembly; or 5) the magazine port.
If a weapon meets one of the above tests, it is a Copy or Duplicate (and therefore a prohibited Assault weapon), even if it is marketed as “state compliant” or “Massachusetts compliant.”
The fact that a weapon is or has been marketed by the manufacturer on the basis that it is the same as or substantially similar to one or more Enumerated Weapons will be relevant to identifying whether the weapon is a Copy or Duplicate (and therefore a prohibited Assault weapon) under the applicable test(s).
Under Section 121, the Features Test in the former 18 U.S.C. section 921(a)(30) remains an independent basis for qualification as an Assault weapon.
If a weapon, as manufactured or originally assembled, is a Copy or Duplicate under one or both of the applicable tests, it remains a prohibited Assault weapon even if it is altered by the seller. Therefore, a Copy or Duplicate will be treated as an Assault weapon even if it is altered, for example, by pinning the folding or telescoping stock in a fixed position, by removing the pistol grip, by removing a bayonet mount or flash suppressor, or by preventing the weapon from accepting a detachable magazine.
Purely cosmetic similarities to an Enumerated Weapon, such as finish, appearance, or shape of the stock, or appearance or shape of the rail, will not be treated as relevant to a determination of whether a weapon is a Copy or Duplicate.
Application of this Enforcement Notice (dealers licensed under G.L. c. 140, § 122):
The Guidance will not be applied to future possession, ownership or transfer of Assault weapons by dealers, provided that the dealer has written evidence that the weapons were transferred to the dealer in the Commonwealth prior to July 20, 2016, and provided further that a transfer made after July 20, 2016, if any, is made to persons or businesses in states where such weapons are legal.
Application of this Enforcement Notice (individual gun owners):
The Guidance will not be applied to possession, ownership or transfer of an Assault weapon obtained prior to July 20, 2016.
The AGO reserves the right to alter or amend this guidance.
1 The enumerated weapons are slightly renumbered here for clarity in light of a redundant numbering scheme in the text of the statute.
2 The former federal assault weapons ban also included the enumerated weapons described in the Commonwealth’s definition of “Assault weapons” together with “copies or duplicates of such weapons.”
3 A weapon is not a Copy or Duplicate under this Guidance if it meets one or more of the exceptions ((i)-(vii)) contained in the statutory definition of Assault weapon in Section 121.
Massachusetts law prohibits sale and possession of Assault Weapons. G.L. c. 140, §§ 128 and 131M. Sale by a business of any weapon that the buyer is not permitted to possess also violates the state consumer protection act, G.L. c. 93A.
On July 20, 2016, the Attorney General issued an Enforcement Notice on Prohibited Assault Weapons that provides gun manufacturers, licensed dealers, and the public with guidance on the Assault Weapons ban. In particular, the notice explains how the Attorney General identifies weapons that are prohibited as “copies” or “duplicates” of the enumerated banned Assault Weapons that are listed in Massachusetts law.
The full text of the Enforcement Notice, issued on July 20, 2016, is available here. These FAQs are intended to summarize the Enforcement Notice, but in case of any inconsistency, the Enforcement Notice controls.
Q: What type of weapons are prohibited as “copies or duplicates” of the Assault Weapons listed in G.L. c. 140, § 121?
- Under Massachusetts law, Assault Weapons are defined in several ways. Among other things, the law sets out a list of weapons, by make and model, that are prohibited. The law further states that “copies or duplicates” of the listed weapons are also banned. Separately, there is a list of features that make certain guns Assault Weapons.
- The Attorney General’s Enforcement Notice describes two tests the AGO uses to identify guns that are “copies or duplicates” because those guns are sufficiently similar to be considered “copycats” of the listed guns.
- As explained in the Notice, “copies” or “duplicates” of banned Assault Weapons include semiautomatic weapons that can accept a detachable ammunition magazine and that meet one of the following tests:
- The weapon’s internal functional components are substantially similar to the construction or configuration of a weapon that is expressly banned under the law (such as a Colt AR-15 or a Kalashnikov AK-47);
- The weapon has a receiver that includes or accepts key operating components that are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon. The relevant operating components may include, but are not limited to:
1) the trigger assembly;
2) the bolt carrier or bolt carrier group;
3) the charging handle;
4) the extractor or extractor assembly; or
5) the magazine port.
Q: Does the Enforcement Notice affect the legality of the sale of receivers for Assault Weapons if the gun is not built out?
- Yes. If the receiver is for a weapon that would meet one of the tests described above, it will be treated as an Assault Weapon and it cannot be sold in Massachusetts.
Q: I am a law enforcement officer. Does the notice affect me?
- No. The notice does not change the law with respect to ownership of Assault Weapons by law enforcement officers. Your existing right to buy and possess Assault Weapons remains protected under Massachusetts law.
Q: I am a dealer. May I re-stock my inventory of Assault Weapons for sales exclusively to law enforcement officers?
- No. However, you may take orders for sales of Assault Weapons to law enforcement officers, and you may obtain those weapons from your distributor and possess them until you complete the transfer. When you do so, you must retain information sufficient to verify that the transferee is a law enforcement officer.
Q: Are there examples or categories of weapons that are not copies or duplicates of Assault Weapons?
- Yes. Many rifles, shotguns, and pistols are not copies or duplicates of enumerated Assault Weapons. For example, the following are not copies or duplicates under G.L. c. 140, § 121:
- Any handgun on the August 2016 version of the state’s Approved Firearms Roster, available here.
- Handguns are still subject to MA 940 CMR 16.00 et seq Consumer Protection Regulations;
- Any .17 or .22 caliber rimfire rifle;
- Any Ruger Mini 14 or substantially similar model weapon;
- Any Springfield Armory M1A or substantially similar model weapon;
- Any of the hundreds of rifles and shotguns on this list —Appendix A to 18 U.S.C. § 922, as appearing on September 13, 1994;
- Any weapon that is operated by manual bolt, pump, lever, or slide action;
- Any weapon that is an antique, relic, or theatrical prop;
- Any semiautomatic rifle that cannot accept a detachable magazine that holds more than five rounds of ammunition;
- Any semiautomatic shotgun that cannot hold more than five rounds of ammunition in a fixed or detachable magazine.
- This list is not exhaustive; it is meant for illustrative purposes only. Many other weapons are not Assault Weapons or copies or duplicates of Assault Weapons.
Q: Are any .17 or .22 caliber rimfire rifles affected by the Enforcement Notice?
- No. However, a weapon that is manufactured as an Assault Weapon cannot be made legal by alterations that allow it to discharge .17 or .22 caliber ammunition.
Q: Does the Enforcement Notice change which semi-automatic pistols may be sold in Massachusetts?
- No. The Enforcement Notice makes no change to the list of handguns, including semi-automatic pistols, on the August 2016 version of the state’s Approved Firearms Roster. The August 2016 list is available here.
- The Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban does prohibit the sale of certain semi-automatic pistols, including the INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9 and TEC-22; and the Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil. Only these weapons and copies or duplicates of these specific pistols are prohibited under the ban, and none appear on the approved list. Handguns are still subject to MA 940 CMR 16.00 et seq. Consumer Protection Regulation.
Q: Does the Enforcement Notice apply to sales transactions or transfers that were started before July 20, 2016, but not completed until several days after that date?
- Yes. But as a matter of enforcement priorities, the Attorney General’s office does not expect to conduct enforcement actions in connection with those transactions. Sellers should retain evidence that clearly establishes the date on which such transactions were commenced.
Q: My gun dealer is telling me that a gun is labeled by the manufacturer as “Massachusetts compliant.” Does that mean that the weapon is not banned?
- No. The fact that that a weapon has been labeled “state compliant” or “Massachusetts compliant” by the manufacturer does not make the gun legal to purchase and own in Massachusetts. Whether a weapon is banned depends on whether it meets the definition of Assault Weapon in state law. A weapon is a prohibited “copy or duplicate” if it meets one of the tests contained in the Enforcement Notice.
Q: If the gun does not have certain features like a flash suppressor or a collapsible stock, can it still be an Assault Weapon?
- Yes. If a weapon is a copy or duplicate of one of the enumerated models under one of the tests in the Enforcement Notice, it is a prohibited weapon, even if it does not have certain features such as a flash suppressor and a collapsible stock. In other words, a gun that meets one of the tests is an Assault Weapon – even if its flash suppressor is removed and/or its stock is pinned in a fixed position.
- The Features Test, as referenced in state law and set out in the Enforcement Notice, is a separate and independent basis for concluding that a weapon is a banned Assault Weapon.
Q: How am I supposed to know whether a gun is a copy or duplicate that is prohibited under state law?
- Gun dealers and gun manufacturers must use their knowledge and experience to assess which guns are substantially similar to a banned weapon and likely to meet one of the tests. The Attorney General expects voluntary compliance from gun dealers and manufacturers with respect to prohibited weapons.
- You may also examine the owner’s manual and marketing material for a gun. If a gun is labeled or marketed as “the same as” or “similar to” an “AR-15”, “AK-47” or any other Enumerated Weapon, this would strongly suggest that the weapon is prohibited as a “copy or duplicate.”
- You may also review the separate question above that lists many guns, by example or category, that are not copies or duplicates of Assault Weapons under the Enforcement Notice.
Q: What if I already own a gun that is a copy or duplicate?
- If a weapon is a copy or duplicate of one of the models enumerated in the law, it is an Assault Weapon. The Enforcement notice will not be applied to possession, ownership or transfer by an individual gun owner of weapons obtained on or before July 20, 2016.
- The AGO also will not enforce the law against a gun dealer that possesses or transfers a “copy or duplicate” weapon that was obtained on or before July 20, 2016, provided that transfers, if any, are made to persons or businesses in states where ownership of the weapon is legal.
Q: What can I do if I no longer want my gun?
- There are frequent state, regional or local buyback programs. Check with your local police department.
- You may also surrender any gun, at any time, for any reason to your local police department or to the State Police. See 5.15 CMR § 3.06.
Q: May I return a weapon covered by the Enforcement Notice after July 20, 2016 if it was transferred to me for storage or repairs before that date?
- Yes. If the owner purchased the weapon prior to July 20, 2016 and you have proof that you received the weapon solely for storage or repairs, you may return it provided that you register the transfer. You should keep evidence of the circumstances of the transfer.
Q: May I return a weapon covered by the Enforcement Notice to a manufacturer after July 20, 2016 for repairs or replacement under warranty or pursuant to a recall? And may the manufacturer return it to me thereafter?
- Yes. If you purchased the weapon prior to July 20, 2016, you may return the weapon to the manufacturer, who may then return it to you after it is repaired or replaced.
Q: Why did the Attorney General take this action?
- The Enforcement Notice explains how the AGO will enforce a law – the Assault Weapons ban – that was enacted in 1998 to protect public safety. By issuing the notice, the Attorney General hopes and expects that non-compliant gun dealers will come into voluntary compliance with the law, to minimize the need for criminal or civil enforcement.
- The Attorney General intends to give full effect to the Legislature’s mandate that Assault Weapons, including copies or duplicates of the listed weapons, stay out of civilian hands.
Q: Is there a list of weapons that are banned under state law?
- No. The AGO will work with gun dealers, as necessary, to help them identify the guns that meet one or both of the tests of a copy or duplicate.
- The AGO is expecting full, voluntary compliance with the Assault Weapons ban, as it is explained in the Enforcement Notice, but will enforce the Commonwealth’s laws in a civil or criminal action if gun dealers or individuals do not comply.
Read some of the support shared on social media and more letters and statements of support.
— Julianne Moore (@_juliannemoore) August 11, 2016
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) August 15, 2016
— Wil Wheaton (@wilw) August 11, 2016
— Setti Warren (@MayorWarren) August 11, 2016
— MAPublicHealthAssoc (@MAPublicHealth) July 31, 2016
— Newtown Action (@NewtownAction) July 23, 2016
— Gays Against Guns (@GAGnoguns) July 30, 2016
— Brady Campaign (@Bradybuzz) July 27, 2016
— NASW Mass Chapter (@NASWMA) August 11, 2016
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) July 21, 2016
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) August 1, 2016
— Katherine Clark (@RepKClark) August 1, 2016
I know firsthand how deadly assault weapons are, and I wholeheartedly support @MassAGO Healey’s enforcement of MA assault weapons ban.
— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) July 26, 2016
— Rep. Jim McGovern (@RepMcGovern) July 22, 2016
— (((Steve Israel))) (@RepSteveIsrael) July 22, 2016
— Mayor Marty Walsh (@marty_walsh) July 22, 2016
— Barbara Anthony (@BarbaraBAnthony) July 31, 2016
— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) August 3, 2016
— Len Campanello (@ChiefGPD) August 2, 2016