KEITH G. LANGER
255 Harvard Lane
Wrentham, MA 02093-1069
February 7, 2016
The Sun Chronicle-opinion
Re: “Our View’s” Exhortation to enact the “Replica Gun Bill”
I see the Sun Chronicle has, for the second time in three days, exhorted enactment of the so called “Replica Gun Bill.” It does so by assuring us that:
This is not about real guns. Let us make that clear.
In fact, the bill was so shoddily drafted, it would have greatly affected “real guns.” That is why it was opposed, to this paper’s annoyance, by Gun Owners Action League and many concerned gun owners.
The bill was sent to the Judiciary Committee for review. Why? Because there was an excellent chance the bill ran afoul of existing Federal law; 18 USC § 921(16(B) – Definitions. Under that law, functioning replica guns which are copies of antique guns, are EXCLUDED from inclusion by law from being treated as modern arms. Such replicas are commonly seen here at Revolutionary and Civil War events, as well as “cowboy” and “primitive” shooting competitions. This bill would affect all those replica guns, their owners, and those events.
Current Massachusetts law mirrors the Federal exclusion. See M.G.L. c. 140, §121(B) – Definitions. Replicas are also EXCLUDED from stringent storage requirements under Massachusetts law; see M.G.L.c. 140, § 131L(f). Yet the current bill says nothing about being limited to toys; it uses the term “replica” – and that includes real, functioning, replica guns.
This well-intentioned, but ill thought-out, bill, would not have been prevented the tragic killing of Tamir Rice. He was shot by police before he could even fully turn around, by an officer who had made no effort whatsoever to confirm what Rice held. No law would have stopped that.
The bill also ignores the fact that criminals can (if they have not already) paint orange stripes on their illegally-obtained guns to make them look like toys. Further, anyone who knows boys will expect them to remove the orange tip to make their toy gun look realistic, negating the law.
The real failure is that, the glib assurance of this paper notwithstanding, the bill would affect “real guns;” the muskets and pistols carried by re-enactors, the Hawken “mountain man” muzzle-loaders used in black powder rifle competitions, and the cap-and-ball revolvers used in certain Single Action Shooting Society (SASS) competitions. That is why re-enactors, competitors, collectors, and those who shoot just for enjoyment opposed this bill.
As one who has practiced firearms law in this state for over twenty years, and held a firearms license in this state for twice as long, I have a theory how such bills as this get written:
Massachusetts gun laws are written by those whose ignorance of firearms is exceeded only by their antipathy towards them.
This poorly drafted bill – and this paper’s endorsement of it – prove that.
Very truly yours,
Keith G. Langer, J.D.