In Massachusetts, the attorney general's office ruled, many years ago, that only guns that they approve of, which have certain features, are legal to sell in the state.

This regulation claimed to stem from CMR 140, the consumer protection law against false advertising.

How is this regulation possibly legal? What is the legal argument that "you can't claim your product does something it doesn't" leads to, "if you don't include these features in your product, it's illegal to sell here"?

  • Are you sure this law has roots in required presences, and not required absences? That is - it's not a list of things approved because they all have certain features, it's a list of things approved because they lack certain features (and then still, it may be certain combinations or numbers of restricted feature are okay).
    – user4657
    Jul 23, 2016 at 1:26
  • It's not a law but a regulation. Yes, I don't have the direct reference handy, but the reg requires specific features, including a loaded chamber indicator. If the firearm doesn't have one, the AG has deemed it unfit for sale in MA.
    – atk
    Jul 23, 2016 at 11:27
  • You might clarify the original question to note that it's not that the gun is "illegal," but rather that it can't be sold in the state (unless "grandfathered").
    – feetwet
    Jul 23, 2016 at 14:40

1 Answer 1


The regulation is legal because it hasn't been overturned by legislation or invalidated by the judiciary.

The premise of the regulation goes something like this:

  1. There is a compelling public interest in preventing unsafe goods from being sold to consumers.
  2. Guns are inherently dangerous consumer goods
  3. The AG has identified "safety features" that, the office claims, make a gun less dangerous than ones without it. These are spelled out in MGL 140, §123 clauses 18-21

One may argue that these are designed to infringe the rights of MA citizens to lawfully acquire many arms that are in common use. But that argument has not seen any legal success.

Such "required safety features" regulations are hardly unusual. Just to pick one at random: Here are safety features required of all walk-behind powered lawn-mowers.

  • From what law does the lawn mower standard draw its authority?
    – atk
    Jul 23, 2016 at 11:25
  • @atk - Not sure, but it appears those regulations were promulgated by the CPSC. If you want a general idea of how many consumer protection regulations there are, and from which laws they derive their authority, here's a nice list provided by the state of California.
    – feetwet
    Jul 23, 2016 at 14:36
  • One possibly significant difference between lawnmowers and guns is that there is no constitutional protection for lawnmower ownership.
    – phoog
    Jul 25, 2016 at 4:13

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