Countertop Chronicles has posted a New York Times story about a human-shaped “thug” target New York police use (registration required). Surprisingly, this story is not anti-gun—at least not if a police officer holds a gun.
The story made me think of a little known facet of Massachusetts state law. But, first a word or two about Massachusetts and firearms: you must get a license to own a gun in your own home; one type of license, perversely called a License to Carry, may not actually confer “approval” for concealed carry; full firearms registration is in effect, and…well you get the idea. Massachusetts also licenses owners of “shooting clubs.” With that license, an owner or his employees can then lawfully turn a rental gun over to another person.
Now, here’s that little known law I mentioned: You cannot shoot at a human shaped target in Massachusetts unless you are a member of law enforcement and doing so in the line of duty (i.e., training). The law includes human-shaped silhouettes too and any other depiction of a human being.
The Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts tried to overturn the law on First Amendment grounds. That led to a US First Circuit Court finding that shooting at a human-shaped target could help a shooter gain proficiency at shooting human beings and thus upheld the law. An article by a law professor explains circuitously why the court was wrong—not that I would make a similar argument.
Bill and I lived in Massachusetts before and after 9/11/01. Right afterwards, one shooting range offered targets of Osama bin Laden for their customers to plink. I asked the owner about the law since we had known him for awhile. He said as I recollect, “I got cops coming in shooting at him [target], and if they tell me to I’ll stop using it.” Bill and I really enjoyed filling Mr. Paper bin Laden full of holes.
Still, the range never offered the thug target the Times article mentions; they carried no FBI style silhouettes, and no scenario-type targets (bad guy, lady with baby, guy with rolled up newspaper, guy with sawed-off shotgun). One gun shop I know of was selling an IPSC-style cardboard silhouette, which must be just within the law or that store is inviting a test case.
Everything in Massachusetts gun laws infringes on gun owners rights. Massachusetts so fears guns in the hands of its citizens that they won’t even let them shoot at paper people even if they have to violate the First Amendment to do it.