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Massachusetts divided over definition of “assault rifle”

Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani examines what makes something an “assault weapon.”

by Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani
Nov 15 2016, 4:52am

This segment originally aired Nov. 14, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

What makes something an “assault weapon,” and why is Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey arguing about it with the state’s gun enthusiasts? The state says it is closing loopholes while the gun lobby says the rule changes are unnecessary.

“One of the things we’ve heard from the gun lobby year after year is, ‘We don’t need more gun laws, we don’t need more regulations. Just enforce the laws that are on the books,'” Healey told VICE News correspondent Caroline Modarressy-Tehrani. “So that’s what I did in Massachusetts.”

In July, Healey announced a renewed effort to enforce the state’s assault weapons ban and to better define and cut down sales of copycat assault weapons. The decision immediately drew the ire of the gun lobby and generated confusion among gun store owners.

“We were absolutely in a panic when this happened, as far as our inventory,” said gun shop owner Richard Munyon. “It was so ambiguous we didn’t know what was coming down the line.”

Despite criticism and a lawsuit against the attorney general’s office, Healey is optimistic about the effect of the renewed efforts. “The good news is gun dealers have complied,” she said. “Almost overnight, sales of these weapons have stopped.”