Gun rights activists sue Massachusetts over assault weapons ban

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By Scott Malone | BOSTON

BOSTON Gun rights advocates have sued
Massachusetts over the state’s ban on assault weapons, saying
that a crackdown begun last year on “copycat” assault rifles is
a vague and unconstitutional violation of gun ownership rights.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court late Monday, challenges
a 1998 state law banning rifles including the AR-15 and AK-47
and a July 2016 directive by the states attorney general banning
guns that are similar in function but have been slightly
modified to meet state requirements, such as by replacing
folding stocks with fixed models or removing flash suppressors.

The group of gun owners, dealers and the state’s Gun Owners
Action League, who have the backing of the National Rifle
Association, said the July decision by Attorney General Maura
Healey banned guns that had been purchased legally in the state
over the past two decades and infringed on the right to bear
arms protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

“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 33-page lawsuit contends.

It said that 1.2 million such weapons were sold across the
United States in 2014 and that that type of firearm represented
20 percent of U.S. gun sales in 2012.

The suit asks a federal judge to overturn the 1998 state law
and to block the state from enforcing its July ban on “copies or
duplicates” of assault rifles.

“The assault weapons ban keeps dangerous, military-style
weapons off our streets,” said Jillian Fennimore, a Healey
spokeswoman. “We will vigorously defend the law and continue our
enforcement efforts.”

Gun rights are a hotly debated issue in the United States.
Advocates for years have succeeded in fighting off attempts to
restrict weapons possession on the federal level, contending
that access to a wide range of weapons is needed for personal
protection, hunting and shooting sports.

Gun-control advocates, who highlight the guns’ use in mass
shootings at places such as schools and nightclubs, have
responded by focusing their efforts on promoting new
restrictions at the state level.

Liberal-leaning Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun
regulations in the country.

“We are drawing a line in the sand where Massachusetts’ gun
control agenda tramples the fundamental individual right to
defend oneself and family in the home,” James Wallace, executive
director of the Gun Owners’ Action League, said in a statement.

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