, Salem, MA

Local News

December 19, 2012

AR-15: Gun could be in many homes


“It’s light, it’s easy to shoot ... and they’re practically indestructible,” he said.

The AR-15 is also used by law enforcement. The Salem Police Department, and other local departments, own the weapon, which is the civilian version of the M-16 rifle.

The Salem News made several inquiries yesterday to try to find out whether the weapon used in the Connecticut school shooting — a Bushmaster AR-15 — is sold in Massachusetts.

The answer, at least for now, is nobody appears to know.

The Massachusetts State Police referred the inquiry to the Boston office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They had an answer, or at least a reason why they can’t yet provide an answer: The Connecticut State Police have not released the model number of the Bushmaster AR-15 used in the shooting, according to Debora Seifert, a special agent and spokeswoman for the ATF.

In 1994, Massachusetts outlawed assault weapons. However, that does not mean it banned the AR-15, which comes in many varieties.

“Assault weapons are banned in Massachusetts,” said Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety. “However, the AR-15 can be modified to become Massachusetts compliant.”

Danvers Police Chief Neil Ouellette said basically the same thing: “Bushmaster does make an AR-15 that is compliant in Massachusetts.”

With more than 8,000 licensed gun owners in this area, it’s likely some of them own AR-15 rifles. The state does not have readily available information on how many of the rifles are in local communities, but some information is available to police.

Licensed gun owners in Massachusetts are required to register weapons with the state.

“If we’re doing an investigation and going to someone’s house, there is a state database you can look into to see what they have registered,” said Detective Mike Crane of the Peabody Police Department.

That is not the case across the country, however.

“What it comes down to is there is no federal registry for (most) firearms,” said Seifert, the ATF agent.

Tom Dalton can be reached at



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