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Senator Downing's Statement on Attorney General Healey's Enforcement Notice
July 27, 2016

Many of my constituents have asked about my position on Attorney General Healey’s recent “Enforcement Notice” on the Massachusetts Assault Weapons Ban. In the time since the Attorney General made the announcement, I have researched the statute under which the Attorney General acted, along with other relevant precedent and legal history. Based on that research, I fully support Attorney General Healey’s actions.

The goal of the 1998 Assault Weapons Ban was to restrict access to a certain type of firearm because of the particular lethality of these guns. The legislation also recognized that simple changes to peripheral features of such guns could skirt the law, which is why Chapter 140, Section 121 of the Massachusetts General Laws explicitly prohibits the sale of “copies or duplicates of the weapons, of any caliber”. Given that, I believe the actions of the Attorney General are in line with the original legislation’s intent and are within the office’s statutory authority as the state’s top law enforcement official.

I further understand that the Attorney General’s enforcement notice is a notification of her office’s intention to enforce the law prospectively, and that it will not be used retroactively to prosecute anyone who has bought or sold such weapons prior to July 20th of this year.

I respect the rights of law-abiding sportsmen in my district. I respect the laws of the Commonwealth. Copycat assault weapons marketed as “state compliant” are designed specifically to circumvent the laws of the Commonwealth and are a threat to our public safety. I believe that the Attorney General’s action respects both the letter of the law and the Second Amendment rights of our hunters and sportsmen.


Note - on July 20th, 2016, the office of the Attorney General issued an enforcement notice to gun dealers clarifying 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.

Additional information regarding the enforcement notice can be found here.


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