NRA-Backed Group Sues Massachusetts over ‘Assault Weapon’ Ban

Antique gun shop

A group of gun dealers, owners, along with the Gun Owners Action League filed a lawsuit against Massachusetts over a decades-old ban on ‘assault weapons’ which, the group alleges, infringes the Second Amendment.

The plaintiffs, which have the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) nod, say that a 1998 state ban on “assault weapons” is both unconstitutional and politically motivated. According to the court’s documents, “assault weapons” is a pejorative term that describes all types of rifles including the AK-47 and AR-15 which technically aren’t “assault” weapons.

The Trial

The group said state authorities started a crackdown on “copycat” rifles last year, but their actions violate gun ownership rights. Plaintiffs now challenge both the 1998 bill and a recent ban on guns issued by the state’s attorney general Maura Healey.

Healey issued a directive in July which banned all firearms that have a similar function to rifles even though owners modified them visually such as by replacing folding stocks to meet state standards.

The group of gun advocates sued the state because the AG’s ban targeted firearms that people had lawfully purchased across the state in the last two decades. The ban is also at odds with the constitutional right to own and bear firearms.

Massachusetts prohibits firearms it pejoratively defines as ‘assault weapons,’ which is a non-technical, entirely fabricated, and political term of uncertain definition and scope,

the plaintiffs wrote in the suit.

According to other court documents, the recent ban affected a type of weapon which sold 1.2 million units nationwide in 2014. Additionaly, the targeted rifles account for 20 percent of all gun sales in the U.S.A. Plaintiffs ask the court to overturn the 1998 ban and prevent the state from enforcing the AG’s July ban on copycat assault rifles.

The AG’s office argues the ban is necessary to prevent the use of military style weapons on the state’s streets. The office added they would defend the ban ‘vigorously’ in court.

The Gun Rights Controversy

Gun rights are a thorny issue in the U.S. Gun rights advocates such as the NRA have successfully prevented the federal and state governments from placing restrictions on weapon possession. Moreover, gun activists argue that Americans need their guns for self-defense and shooting and hunting sports.

Gun-control advocates, on the other hand, say gun restrictions are necessary to prevent mass shootings in clubs and the nation’s schools. Their opponents say the argument is invalid because the said places are gun free zones, which lure in mass shooters in the first place.

Massachusetts, which has been a blue state after the Reagan era, has some of the nations tightest gun regulations. Gun Owners’ Action League said their suit represebts a bid to “draw a line in the sand” where the state’s gun restrictions trample its residents’ right to defend themselves in their homes.

In 2013, there were 33,636 firearm deaths in the U.S. and 73,505 firearm injuries which did not led to death. A year later, 2,227 homicides involved either hands, fists or knives, while only 248 murders involved firearms.
Image Source: Flickr