In Massachusetts, the NRA is leading a grassroots effort to do away with state Attorney General Maura Healey’s crackdown on “copycat” assault weapons — the same firearms likely included under the Fourth Circuit’s ‘weapons of war’ logic — and severely restrict the State House’s ability to regulate sales in the future.
Healey’s “crackdown” is a distinctly different issue. That issue is one of “What is an “assault weapon?” vs. “Are “assault weapons” legal?”
MA passed a State Assault weapons ban in 1998 that mirrored the Clinton era Federal Assault Weapons ban almost word for word. The major difference between the two was that the Federal ban defined an “Assault weapon” by have any of 3 distinct features (i.e. barrel shrouds, flash suppressors, hand grips, detachable magazines, etc..). The MA State law lists the same features but limits then to 2 instead of 3.
At the time Mr. Scott Harshbarger was the State AG and he set his interpretation of that law and gun makers and dealers complied with his mandates. His interpretation of the State ban also matched US Attorney Generals Reno and Holder’s interpretation of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
Harshbarger was replaced by Thomas Riley in 1999 and Riley enforced the exact same interpretation of the law that Harshbarager had promulgated. Riley was then replaced by Martha Coakley in 2007. Coakley also continued the exact same interpretation that Harshbarger had created. Healey replaced Coakely when Coakely decided to run for State Governor and Healey became AG in 2015. (Note there that ALL of these AGs were Democrats and considered to be extremely pro-gun control.)
Then in 2016 Healey decided, without any public input or comment, that the law that had been in place since 1998 didn’t mean what it said and that it gave her the authority to define what is/isn’t an assault weapon all on her own. Her office decided that they could ignore any/all features and just make their own determination on what is or isn’t an “assault weapon”. Under her interpretation, she can decide that ANY firearm is an assault weapon. She sent out a letter to gun dealers in the State giving them 24-hours to cease sales of the exact same firearms that they had been selling for the prior 18 years. Mind you, Healey didn’t change a single word in any law, she simply changed her interpretation of what the existing words meant to put her policy into effect.
Within hours of Healey’s letter going out her actions were questioned by pretty much everyone in the State including State Democratic leaders that had put the law into effect back in 1998.
Amazingly, Harshbarger, Riley and Coakley all quickly rallied around Healey and claimed that this new interpretation of the law was the “correct” interpretation. Between them, by their own admission, they not only spent 16 years defending the “wrong” interpretation of the law, but they whined and cried about how ineffectual the State’s gun laws were all the while having the ability to change that law all on their own.
So the question that will eventually make it to the courts is whether or not Harshbarger, Riley and Coakley were all incompetent and Healey the only competent State AG we’ve had in the last 20 years or whether it is Healey that is incompetent.