Massachusetts Lawmaker Introduces Ban On All Semi-Automatic Rifles

Massachusetts Lawmaker Introduces Ban On All Semi-Automatic Rifles
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

While most gun control activists in the state of Massachusetts have been focusing their efforts on trying to prevent gun stores from opening up, a Democrat state representative wants to stop gun shops from carrying any and all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. David Linsky, a former assistant prosecutor in Middlesex County and a current trial lawyer, has introduced HB 4038, which would amend the state’s “assault weapons” ban to ban any “any rifle or shotgun containing a semiautomatic mechanism.”

Massachusetts’ existing ban is already far broader than what lawmakers originally intended, thanks to Attorney General Maura Healey’s “reinterpretation” of the law back in 2016. As Healey interpreted the existing state law, not only were the guns banned by name in the law forbidden for sale in Massachusetts, but firearms with similar designs and features were also illegal. A challenge to Healey’s order was turned away by the Supreme Court in 2018, but even the sweeping gun ban that’s been in effect for the last five years doesn’t go far enough for Rep. Linsky. Instead, his measure provides the simplest definition of an “assault weapon” that I’ve seen from an anti-gun politician.

“Large capacity weapon”, any firearm, rifle or shotgun: (i) that is semiautomatic with a fixed large capacity feeding device; (ii) that is semiautomatic and capable of accepting, or readily modifiable to accept, any detachable large capacity feeding device; (iii) that employs a rotating cylinder capable of accepting more than ten rounds of ammunition in a rifle or firearm and more than five shotgun shells in the case of a shotgun or firearm; or (iv) any rifle or shotgun containing a semiautomatic mechanism.

The term “large capacity weapon” shall be a secondary designation and shall apply to a weapon in addition to its primary designation as a firearm, rifle or shotgun and shall not include: (i) any weapon that was manufactured in or prior to the year 1899; (ii) any weapon that operates by manual bolt, pump, lever or slide action; (iii) any weapon that is a single-shot weapon; (iv) any weapon that has been modified so as to render it permanently inoperable or otherwise rendered permanently unable to be designated a large capacity weapon; or (v) 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 large capacity weapon.

As you can see, there are a few theoretical exceptions to the law, but for the most part Linsky’s bill would make it illegal to sell virtually every semi-automatic rifle or shotgun on the market, even those chambered in .22LR. The measure follows on the heels of another piece of legislation Linsky co-sponsored this year that would prohibit gun makers like Smith & Wesson from manufacturing “assault weapons” in the state.

Sponsored by Cambridge Rep. Marjorie Decker, Lawrence Rep. Frank Moran, and Newton Sen. Cynthia Creem, the legislation would ban manufacturing of “any assault weapon or large capacity feeding device” in Massachusetts, unless it’s for the purpose of selling to law enforcement or military agencies.

Decker, who referenced research showing that assault weapons account for 85 percent of mass shooting deaths, argued that the bill would afford residents in other states the same protection that are in Massachusetts, in wake of the recent spate of deadly rampages across the country. Gun control advocates — including Republican Gov. Charlie Baker — have credited the strict gun laws in Massachusetts for the state’s lowest-in-the-country firearm death rate.

Linsky’s bill also features an exception for law enforcement, which is odd considering the gun control lobby’s insistence that “police violence is gun violence.” If these guns are too awful for civilians to own, why do Democrats like Linsky, Decker, Moran, and Creem think its okay for police to carry them around?

In fact, many of these same legislators have been critical of law enforcement over the past few years, with Creem (the Senate Majority leader in the Massachusetts statehouse) on hand for a press conference last year promoting a police reform bill that legislators claimed “represents the first step in rethinking what public safety should look like.” The legislation, declared Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, “prioritizes de-escalation, prevention and care, and rejects — anywhere that it exists — a culture of aggressive force and impunity in law enforcement.”

I mean, if you want to reject a culture of aggressive force in policing, shouldn’t you take away their “battlefield weapons of war”? The way it stands, it looks like Linsky and his fellow Democrats aren’t exactly anti-gun… just anti-Second Amendment. AR-15s are perfectly okay with them, as long as they’re only in the hands of police officers and not “the People.”

I’d love to say that Linsky’s new bill is doomed to failure, but given the anti-Second Amendment majorities in the state legislature, anything’s possible if he’s able get buy-in from Democratic leadership. We’ll be keeping an eye on any cosponsors who might sign on as co-sponsors of the gun ban, as well as any additional legislation that Linsky might have in mind. Heck, if he’s going to try to ban every semi-automatic long gun, why not go for a ban on semi-automatic handguns too?