Gun-rights advocates like former New England Patriot left tackle Matt Light rallied on the steps of the Massachusetts state capitol on July 23, decrying what they branded a “sneak attack” by Attorney General Maura Healey on their Second Amendment rights.
“If that woman was here right now, I might tar and feather her,” John Frye told WCVB.
Healey announced three days before the rally that her office would crack down on “copycats” or duplicates of firearms deemed to be “assault weapons” in the wake of the Orlando Pulse nightclub terrorist attack.
Copies or duplicates of banned assault rifles, including copies of the Colt AR-15 and the Kalashnikov AK-47, have been prohibited since the Massachusetts assault weapons ban was passed in 1998.
Despite the law, Healey said, an estimated 10,000 copycat assault weapons were sold in Massachusetts last year alone.
“The gun industry has openly defied our laws here in Massachusetts for nearly two decades,” said Healey. “That ends today. We have a moral and legal responsibility to ensure that combat-style weapons are off our streets and out of the hands of those who would use them to kill innocent people.”
“Increasingly, these guns are the weapon of choice for mass shooters,” Healey added, “and we will do everything we can to prevent the kinds of tragedies here that have occurred in places like Orlando, San Bernardino, Newtown and Aurora.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Congressmen Joe Kennedy III (D) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D) all issued statements of support for Healey’s order.
“These types of assault weapons have no place on our streets. We have tough gun laws in our state, and this notice will make them even tougher,” said Boston Police Commissioner William Evans.
Alan Gottlieb said Evans, Healey, and the rest have their numbers wrong.
Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, told Fox News that FBI Uniform Crime statistics prove Evans and Healey are either misinformed or are using false numbers to make their case.
FBI data shows no murders were committed in Massachusetts in 2014 with a rifle, assault weapon-style or not.
“This ban on semi-auto firearms must be stopped before gun prohibitionists in other states try to enact similar bans by fiat,” Gottlieb said.
The NRA Institute for Legal Action issued a statement criticizing Healey’s order as an “incorrect interpretation of the law.” The NRA also argued Healey’s move includes inaccurate and mystifying definitions of “assault weapons” and “copycat weapons.”
The National Rifle Association also believes the AG directive gives Healey the authority to make changes to any or all of the state’s firearms laws and enforcement of those laws as she sees fit.
“The guidance is very clear that AG Healey ‘reserves the right to alter or amend this guidance,’ so it’s possible that the AG’s new ‘interpretation’ will soon apply to individual possession of previously compliant firearms. NRA is still assessing all legal and legislative options to protect the rights of Massachusetts gun owners.”
Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League, hopes the state legislature will overturn Healey’s edict.
Sen. Don Humason (R) has introduced legislation that would strip Healey’s authority on firearms sales in Massachusetts.
Humason described her July 20 order as “unclear” and an “overreaching attempt to reinterpret the intention of the legislature on this issue.”
He has the support of a fellow Republican, Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee, and a Democrat, Rep. Stephen Kulik.
“Where I come from, the voice of the people is sacred, and no one person creates and enforces any law,” Whipps Lee said in a statement.
“In this instance, the Attorney General has taken it upon herself to unilaterally expand the scope of the assault weapons ban already in place without the courtesy of even holding a public hearing, say nothing of discussing it with the Legislature,” Whipps Lee added.
Kulik said Healey would be well advised to suspend her order “and instead file legislation that can be fully reviewed and considered by the public’s elected representatives in an open and deliberate process.”
Even if Humason can get his bill passed, since Gov. Charlie Baker supports the new assault weapons enforcement plan, Wallace said his group would probably have to rely on the federal courts to intervene.
Healey’s order had an immediate effect on gun sales in Massachusetts. The state’s Firearms Records Bureau shows 2,549 rifles were sold the day of her edict, compared to 132 the day before her order and 51 two days before the order.
“I think that Maura Healey really stepped in it,” Massachusetts Gun Rights president Christopher Pinto told the State House News Service.
“This is like the day of infamy for Maura Healey,” he added. “She’s going to awaken the sleeping giant of gun owners in Massachusetts.”