It is generally unlawful in Massachusetts to sell, offer for sale, transfer or possess an assault weapon (or large capacity feeding device, see the Large Capacity Ammunition Magazines section) that was not otherwise lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994.1 Firearms dealers are also specifically prohibited from selling, leasing, renting, transferring, delivering, or offering for sale, lease, rent, transfer or delivery, any assault weapon or large capacity feeding device not otherwise lawfully possessed on September 13, 1994.2
Massachusetts defines firearms as “assault weapons” if they fall under one (or more) of the following categories:
1) Weapons that meet a “features test” encompassing semi-automatic rifles and pistols that have the ability to accept a detachable magazine if they have at least two specified assault-style characteristics; and semi-automatic shotguns that have at least two specified characteristics;
2) Weapons that were specifically enumerated in a list of assault weapon models restricted under the federal assault weapons law enacted in September 1994, including the Colt AR-15 (that federal statute expired on September 13, 2004); or
3) Weapons that are “copies or duplicates” of the firearm models specifically enumerated as assault weapons.3
In response to efforts by the firearm industry to circumvent Massachusetts’ assault weapons law by marketing “Massachusetts-compliant” copies of banned assault weapon models, Massachusetts’ Attorney General issued an Enforcement Notice on Prohibited Assault Weapons in July 2016, that provided additional clarifying guidance for understanding when weapons would be classified as “copies or duplicates” of specific banned firearm models. That Notice specified that a firearm would be deemed a “copy or duplicate” (and therefore a prohibited assault weapon) if it meets one or both of the following tests and is either (1) a semiautomatic rifle or handgun that was manufactured or subsequently configured with an ability to accept a detachable magazine, or (2) a semiautomatic shotgun:
Similarity Test: A weapon is a Copy or Duplicate if its internal functional components are
substantially similar in construction and configuration to those of an Enumerated
Weapon. Under this test, a weapon is a Copy or Duplicate, for example, if the operating
system and firing mechanism of the weapon are based on or otherwise substantially
similar to one of the Enumerated Weapons.
Interchangeability Test: A weapon is a Copy or Duplicate if it has a receiver that is the
same as or interchangeable with the receiver of an Enumerated Weapon. A receiver will
be treated as the same as or interchangeable with the receiver on an Enumerated Weapon
if it includes or accepts two or more operating components that are the same as or
interchangeable with those of an Enumerated Weapon. Such operating components may
include, but are not limited to: 1) the trigger assembly; 2) the bolt carrier or bolt carrier
group; 3) the charging handle; 4) the extractor or extractor assembly; or 5) the magazine
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- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 131M.
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 123 (Sixteenth).
- Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 140, § 121 (referring to the federal Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act, former 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(30) ).