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A Federal Judge Dismisses a Challenge to Massachusetts' Assault Weapons Ban

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Friday challenging Massachusetts' assault weapons ban.

Massachusetts, which has the lowest firearm death rate of all 50 states, banned the sale and possession of assault weapons and large capacity magazines in 1998. But the weapons manufacturing industry is still a huge part of the state's economy, and manufacturers are not restricted from producing assault weapons. Smith & Wesson, based in Springfield, manufactured the semi-automatic rifle used in the Valentine's day shooting that left 17 dead at a Parkland, Florida, high school.

The lawsuit was brought by gun advocates and dealers in the state after Attorney General Maura Healey announced in 2016 a crackdown on "copy cat" assault weapons after 10,000 such weapons were sold across the state in 2015. The state's assault weapons ban prohibited the sale of "copies or duplicates" of the banned weapons as well, but retailers found a loophole. "Gun manufacturers have taken it upon themselves to define what a 'copy' or 'duplicate' weapon is," Healey wrote in a 2016 op-ed in the Boston Globe. "They market 'state compliant' copycat versions of their assault weapons to Massachusetts buyers. They sell guns without a flash suppressor or folding or telescoping stock, for example, small tweaks that do nothing to limit the lethalness of the weapon."

As a result, Healey's office issued a notice to retailers and manufacturers making it clear that such "copycat" weapons were illegal under state law. Four state retailers and the state affiliate of the National Rifle Association filed suit, claiming that the crackdown was unconstitutional.

District Judge William Young upheld Healey's interpretation of the law in his ruling on Friday, which stated that the types of weapons banned under the 1998 law fall outside the "scope of the personal right to 'bear arms' under the Second Amendment."