Boston Globe: Amid Criticism, Healey Defends Gun Crackdown

Via Boston Globe:

Facing mounting criticism from Governor Charlie Baker, dozens of legislators from both parties, and gun rights advocates, Attorney General Maura Healey insisted Wednesday that her ban on so-called copycat assault weapons is clear, enforceable, and already reducing the sale of such firearms.

Even as state records show that guns that appear to be banned under her edict were still being sold as recently as Tuesday, Healey said Massachusetts has seen a “precipitous drop” in the sales of copies or duplicates of assault weapons, and some firearms manufacturers have stopped marketing such guns as “Massachusetts compliant.”

The shifts show that, contrary to what “the NRA, GOAL, and others would want to suggest, there is not confusion about this, there is no lack of clarity,” Healey said, using acronyms for the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts. “Gun dealers have called our office directly and we have answered questions. It is why we’ve seen that there’s this drop in the sales. Gun dealers get it.”

Last week, Healey, a Democrat, issued an “enforcement notice” and said she was acting to seal a gap in Massachusetts’ longstanding assault weapons ban. For years, she said, the gap has allowed gun manufacturers and stores to produce and sell guns that are functionally identical to assault weapons, but with small changes that saw them marketed as legal in the state. The notice included a two-part test for determining which guns qualify as duplicates, but it did not include a specific list of such guns.

The move drew an immediate rebuke from gun rights advocates, like the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, which trumpeted this headline: “Massachusetts Attorney General Unilaterally Bans Thousands of Previously Legal Guns.”

Over the weekend, a bipartisan group of more than 50 legislators sent Healey a letter strongly opposing her new push. On Monday, Harold P. Naughton Jr., the House chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, said in a letter that he has serious concerns about Healey’s action.

“While I understand your intentions in this matter, I feel this is a misuse and overstepping of authority,” said Naughton, who briefly ran for attorney general against Healey in the 2014 Democratic primary.

On Tuesday, the Baker administration said Healey’s push is so unclear that it might inadvertently prohibit many more firearms that have long been legal in Massachusetts.

Public Safety and Security Secretary Daniel Bennett wrote in a letter that Healey’s action had created such uncertainty that people across the state might not be able to figure out which guns are legal and which are not.

“Depending on how your office is interpreting the two-part test you have articulated for determining whether something is a ‘copy or duplicate’ of a listed assault weapon, a large number of firearms, including pistols that have been sold here legally for decades, may be unintentionally affected,” Bennett wrote.

In a telephone interview with the Globe, Healey rejected that supposition: “I don’t think that’s accurate,” she said.

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