Vague and Arbitrary is No Way to Write Laws, But That Hasn’t Stopped Anti-Gun States So Far

Maura Healey

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Massachusetts’ “assault weapons” and “high capacity” magazine ban (Worman v. Healey) is just one of 10 Second Amendment cases the Supreme Court relisted last week. Fingers crossed that we’ll be getting some good news on one or more of these cases before the Court adjourns for the summer.

Joyce Lee Malcolm, a law professor at Antonin Scalia Law School in Virginia who has argued on behalf of gun rights advocates in Heller and other cases, said the law gives local licensing authorities too much leeway to decide if a “good reason” is good enough.

“If it’s that arbitrary, that it can depend on the individual administrator to just decide that he is never giving anybody that right, that’s not really fair,” Malcolm said.

Likewise, Malcolm said Massachusetts’ assault rifle and ammunition ban, based on the former federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, is also ripe for the court to consider, because — like in other similar state laws — the definition of what qualifies as an assault weapon is so vague.

“It automatically makes the millions of people (across the country) who have these weapons felons for owning them,” Malcolm said. “They bought them legally, and then suddenly, because some people find them scary, they’re illegal.”

– Kimberly Atkins in Mass. Gun Laws Challenge Could Become A Second Amendment SCOTUS Blockbuster


  1. avatar T’Qwell Poony-Powers says:

    Thanks again, Obama!

    1. avatar enuf says:

      For what? Talking some anti-gun shit but accomplishing absolutely nothing of any importance against the Second Amendment?

    2. avatar Chris T in KY says:

      No! Thanks to the Libertarian V.P. candidate that the LP proudly ran in 2016. Former Governor William weld signed into law, the first AWB in the nation. Something he is still very proud of.

      But he does support the legalization of shooting up crystal meth in public, to improve your sexual experience. The legalization of marijuana and all other drugs is far more important to Libertarians Liberals and the Left than gun civil rights.

      1. avatar Mitt Blows says:

        Actuall Wilbur Mitt Romney was governer when the AWB was passed in 1998.

  2. avatar WI Patriot says:

    “Vague and Arbitrary” is how liberals roll in everything they do…

    1. avatar Thomas Adderley says:

      They do that because there are enough half-brain Democratic, Liberal and Progressive ,or any combination thereof, which believe their half truths

    2. avatar Victoria Illinois says:

      Vague law is also the “stay safe” virus law. You can ride in a filthy subway, but not walk along the beach, alone. I’m glad some people are waking up.
      Illinois sheriffs are not going to arrest people for Pritzker’s “gone-to-far laws”. I’m beginning to think this was just a test to see how much we will put-up with.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “I’m beginning to think this was just a test to see how much we will put-up with.”

        My suspicion all along.

        For me, the key was a bat virus caused by people using a “wet market” to trade in fledermaus. Somehow, with the entire history of wet markets in china, this year, and this year only, we got a super, hyper, unstoppable, deadly virus epidemic.

      2. avatar WI Patriot says:

        Well, you’ve seen what happened in WI, so there is hope afterall…

  3. avatar SoCalJack says:

    A few CA gun laws seem vague and some gun owners don’t want to be a court test case.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      You got that right. I have a couple of “gray area” items that stay safely in the back of my gun safe, disassembled and waiting for the day the laws change for the better here, or I move to Free America.

      But who knows? With the groundswell of discontent over this entire COVID-19 debacle and the unexpected change of public sentiment against our Dear Leaders, we may just see the much-awaited political change in strategic areas of our state from blue to red. Not necessarily a sea change, but if only a few districts flip, that would affect the House. And Garcetti is not liked by anyone anymore.

      1. avatar DrewN says:

        I eventually just ended up buying a place in Az. I leave anything that might get me in trouble there and shoot revolvers, levers and pumps while I’m in California.

  4. avatar Imayeti says:

    Grew up in Mass (blame my parents). The overbearing legal atmosphere would be well served to just say “Everything is illegal until we say otherwise.”

  5. avatar Debbie W. says:

    Yes indeed…Mass is a state where you can drop your kids off beneath a Gun Free Zone Sign so any deranged individual can do to your kids whatever they wish. And who gets the blame? Gullible Parents? No. The State of Mass? No. The school board? No. Some gun owner minding his own business who lives hundreds of miles away? Yes that’s the gun owning culprit who is responsible. Ban his guns and the guns of everyone who had zip, nada, nothing to do with what happened beneath The Gun Free Zone Sign.

    Gun Control is so lowlife and sleazy. Of course what else is expected coming from an agenda that is rooted in the Racism attributed to the democrat party?

  6. avatar jakee308 says:

    Frankly, there’s too many women in politics these days. Note the timing of the beginning of the deterioration of the USA.

    Note when the welfare state began taking a disproportionate amount of the taxpayers money and how extensive they expanded who could qualify.

    Note that the biology of a female dictates certain mental and emotional patterns that coincide with laws that are antithetical to freedom and liberty.

    Note the countries that have women as their political leaders and how they’re performing. (Sure there are exceptions. There always is which is why the increase is so concerning. Just means there’s more likely chance that the one who gets elected isn’t the best for the job)

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      While I disagree with your overall sentiment, that reminds me of a joke (named Matt Damon):

      Remember when Damon was ridiculing the idea of Sarah Palin’s candidacy for Vice President back in 2008? Damon (an uber Leftist) mocked her for Christian faith, and asked whether we really want someone who believes dinosaurs existed far more recently than evolutionists believe to have access to the nuclear codes.

      I’m not concerned over whether or not a woman occupies the Oval Office. I’m more concerned as to whether a godless person who doesn’t value human life occupies it. I mean, just look at Chinese President Xi, or Kim Jong Un, for starters.

      1. avatar Unrepentant Libertarian says:

        +100! It is the person, not the sex or race or religion.

  7. avatar Manse Jolly says:

    “….asked whether we really want someone who believes dinosaurs existed far more recently than evolutionists believe to have access to the nuclear codes….””

    Science and discovery in the archaeological fields change quite frequently as new evidence presents itself.

    To state absolutes as ‘Matt’ did is actually anti-science.

    1. avatar Ol' Snake-eyes says:

      “Here, Lizard, Lizard, Lizard. “Here, Lizard, Lizard, Lizard!

    2. avatar GS650G says:

      Look at the science fiction movie he did on fracking..

  8. avatar Leighton Cavendish says:

    Many Christians don’t believe in dinosaurs at all. A colleague at work said…I am paraphrasing a bit…that they were planted by the devil as a test of faith.
    I kid you not… .

    1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

      And many atheists don’t believe one man and one woman are necessary to raise children. Their happy to replace the father and his guns with a government check. And then replacing his guns with the guns of a big city police department.

      Atheists are big supporters of the Welfare Industrial Complex. And the building of “gun free zone” public housing projects.

      1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

        I’m not kidding either.

      2. avatar cool bearded guy says:

        Republican President Donald Trump believes that he can change the interpretation of any law that he wants and infringe on the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens as he by himself sees fit. Christian Republicans believe in the omnipotence of fiat currency and the power of the federal government to take on and service a debt load greater than the GDP, much of it owed to the sworn enemy of the US – The People’s Republic of China. They aided and abetted the transferring much of the US productive capacity to our communist enemies. Republican Christians believe that they can devalue our currency to transfer wealth from the those that worked hard, saved, and were conservative in their investments to those that lived beyond their means, saved nothing, and made reckless investments. I can see why you worship them so.

        1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

          If you watch the entire final presidential address by President Eisenhower, not the atheist edited version. President Eisenhower talks about a “creeping atheism” as a danger to the United States. Because in the 1950s The atheist communist Soviet Union was anti civil rights by definition.

          I don’t care if an atheist doesn’t believe in god. Or they say there is no god. That’s between them and god. The only thing atheists need to do is stay out of other people’s lives. They use government force (guns) to force a change in the civilian population.

          The church / synagogue built schools, hospitals, and provided the PRIVATE SECTOR WELFARE that the poor needed. No tax payer money involved. It worked pretty good for the first 150 years in the USA.

          But Then atheists lawyers, lawmakers, and athiest voters, started to destroy it.

          If you study it you will find organized religious people built the private economy that we enjoy. They held society together.

          You could always walk away from your church. But the atheists won’t let you walk away from government.

          You were never required to be a member of a church to live here. But now it seems you are required to have health insurance to be a citizen???

      3. avatar cool bearded guy says:

        Don’t forget also that Bill Weld’s crimes were committed as a Republican elected by Republicans. He as never signed any laws as a Libertarian.

        1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

          The Libertarians never asked, required, or demanded that he publicly apologize for what he did.
          Drug legalization is more important to them that second amendment civil rights.

        2. avatar Unrepentant Libertarian says:

          Chris T:
          While most Libertarians want drugs decriminalized, they are definitely pro 2A. If they are not pro 2A, then they are NOT real Libertarians. (LINO).

  9. avatar Nanashi says:

    The supreme court has declared (Chicago v. Morales) that a “law fails to meet the requirements of the Due Process Clause if it is so vague and standardless that it leaves the public uncertain as to the conduct it prohibits”. There is literally an entire branch of a federal agency dedicated to determining if the NFA applies to things.

  10. avatar Tyrannosaurus Sex says:

    Massachusetts gun laws are utterly Byzantine. Mag laws for example — any mag over 10 rounds must be preban (pre-1994). But many mags (most mags?) don’t have their date of manufacture stamped on them. So if you’re found with a legally purchased 30 round mag during say, a traffic stop for speeding (Mass is a duty to inform state)…Then what? Will the officer take your word for it that your mag is preban? Will he see that it’s old and beat up and agree that it’s preban? Will he, perhaps not being a gun guy, want some kind of proof that the mag is indeed preban, not understanding that most mags aren’t stamped with a date? Would your store receipt be enough? Even more murky, you can theoretically repair your mags with new parts, legally — if eventually over time your “preban” mag is composed of new parts through repair, then what? The internet claims some guys used to do this to get around the mag laws. I wouldn’t try it, not for a million bucks. A fire chief voluntarily committed himself not too long ago and police found post-ban mags in his house — I don’t know if they were spanky new pmags he bought in New Hampshire, old mags with no stamp, old mags that were “repaired” etc. But regardless, he’s in hot water.

    Oh, and how about this — compensators are legal, flash hiders are felony fuel. The law doesn’t define the difference. What if some DA decides that the comp you bought in good faith hides flashes too well? Threaded barrels are banned “assault feature” so a comp has to be pinned and welded as well on an AR or AK pattern rifle, among others.

    Oh, and how about this — any preban rifle, to qualify as preban, must have been fully configured as preban PRIOR to the ban. If you have a bin of parts left over from 1992, too late to assemble it now. Which leads to…Can legally purchased preban rifles have parts swapped or must they be kept in the same configuration they were in prior to 1994? I’ve seen very careful, very reputable shops selling preban colts with new uppers and stocks, so I assume the prevailing mood is that shops at least are safe to slap on new uppers…But it’s still a grey area….

    By way of disclaimer, the above could be completely wrong. If you ask 5 different people about the above, you’ll get 5 different answers, because nobody can really understand these poorly written laws. I err very much on the side of caution, some guys push the envelope. The only way to be sure you’ll never risk having to interpret a grey area is by not owning firearms in Massachusetts.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      “Mass is a duty to inform state”


  11. avatar Sam I Am says:

    Vague and arbitrary are precisely the right way to draft legislation: “The words mean what we say they mean.”*

    Elections have consequences, and winners take advantage (well, except for Republicrats, who seem lost and confused regardless).

    *Rabbit to Alice

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Humpty Dumpty to Alice. One of my favorite quotes.

      1. avatar Sam I Am says:

        “Humpty Dumpty to Alice. One of my favorite quotes.”

        You are correct. I misidentified the speaker. Thanx

        “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

        ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

        ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”

        Thus summing up the entire bump fire machine gun episode (and many other government distortions of words).

  12. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    In states like California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Virginia, and others. you really need to decide what is more important to you as a gun owner.
    The candidates alternative lifestyle or do they support civil rights? Because they don’t support an alternative lifestyle and civil rights together.

    1. avatar Ralph says:

      Maura Healey, the MA AG who personally outlawed ARs, is the poster girl or boy for alternate lifestyles. So is her “partner,” Judge Gabrielle Wolohojian. Together, they make up any sh!t they want to make up.

      I guess it’s good to be the king.

      1. avatar Unrepentant Libertarian says:

        Said just before jumping on some young maiden>

        1. avatar Chris T in KY says:

          Wasn’t there a California congresswoman who recently did just that???
          I know she was also anti-civil rights. And a Democrat.

  13. avatar Alan says:

    This curiously undefined “good reason” business has got to stop and it should stop RDN, more completely Right Damned Now, unless and except where “good reason” is precisely defined, which would be a novel experience. It is something that cannot and should not be left to the “authorities” to define or establish as they go along.

    1. avatar Sam I Am says:

      “It is something that cannot and should not be left to the “authorities” to define or establish as they go along.”

      If the people in authority cannot use their power to their advantage, what is the point of being in authority?

  14. avatar Pete says:

    Actually, vague and arbitrary is the IDEAL way to write gun laws.
    By keeping the population unsure of the laws on gun ownership, many will opt to not take the risk.
    Of course this only applies to the law abiding.

  15. avatar Chris T in KY says:

    AG Healy is as anti-civil rights as any southern state AG in the 1950s. And is just as dangerous to black civil rights as those white men were.
    In the mind of a progressive if she is anti-civil rights to everyone, then it’s ok???

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