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BOSTON — Nearly a month after Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey issued an enforcement notice that added dozens if not hundreds of gun types to a list of banned firearms, the backlash continues.
Healey’s statement at the end of July noted that she was “stepping up enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban, including a crackdown on the sale of copycat weapons.”
With her action, Healey, a Democrat, automatically banned guns that were legal merely hours earlier – and she did so without notice.
“Our action today is effective immediately,” she said.
Healey said a 1998 law – which at the time banned so-called “assault rifles,” including the AR-15 – gave her the power to take action against guns that were manufactured with slight differences. Such guns are sold as being legal in Massachusetts. Around 10,000 of what she calls “copycat guns” were sold last year.
One pro-Second Amendment group, the Gun Owners’ Action League (GOAL), held a rally in Boxborough, Massachusetts, in mid-August, attended by hundreds of people.
“This is a brand NEW interpretation of the law that has potentially made hundreds of thousands of lawful citizens ‘felons in waiting,’” GOAL wrote on its website. “… She unilaterally changed the rules and interpretations of long standing law overnight without seeking legislative support or consultation, without consulting the state agencies that have statutory authority over the laws. She did it in secret with no public input.”
Healey has the backing of the past five attorneys general, all Democrats, according to MassLive.com.
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“She is not exceeding her authority — she is exercising it. And she has our thanks,” a letter co-signed by the five former AGs reads.
But not everyone in her party agrees. Rep. Harold Naughton, a Democrat and the chairman of the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, opposed Healey’s action.
“While I understand your intentions in this matter, I feel this is a misuse and overstepping of authority,” Naughton wrote, according to MassLive.com.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action also said Healey had gone too far. It explained in detail the legislative intent of the 1998 law.
“By 1998,” the NRA wrote on its website, “the federal ban on ‘assault weapons’ had been in effect for nearly four years, and almost from day one of the federal ban, manufacturers were producing the ‘compliant’ rifles that AG Healey is now targeting. Massachusetts legislators in 1998 were well aware of these compliant rifles, yet they chose not to alter their legislation to prohibit those rifles when they simply enacted a copy of the federal ban. It’s hard to imagine a more clear-cut example of legislative intent.”
There’s another problem, the NRA said: It is not clear which firearms Healey has banned.
“NRA is still assessing all legal and legislative options to protect the rights of Massachusetts gun owners,” NRA wrote. “Stay tuned.”
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