Gun Rights Group Taking Healey, Baker to Federal Court Over Firearm Ban
By Evan Lips | January 24, 2017, 6:11 EST
BOSTON — The state’s leading pro-Second Amendment organization has upped the ante in its gun rights showdown with Attorney General Maura Healey, this time suing her and Governor Charlie Baker in federal court over the state’s assault weapons ban.
The Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts has already turned to the state’s top public records enforcement officer, Secretary of State William Galvin, in an effort to force Healey to turn over documents and records related to her July directive banning so-called “copycat” assault weapons. Their latest civil action, filed Monday, looks to convince a federal judge to deem the state Legislature’s 1998 assault weapons ban as unconstitutional.
“Together we are drawing a line in the sand where Massachusetts’s gun control agenda tramples the fundamental individual right to defend oneself and family in the home,” GOAL Executive Director Jim Wallace said Monday in a prepared statement.
The 33-page lawsuit claims that the state’s use of the phrase “assault weapon” is “pejorative,” and that the ban “is a non-technical, entirely fabricated, and political term of uncertain definition and scope.”
The lawsuit seeks to convince a federal judge that Healey’s July enforcement notice was also unconstitutional.
“The Notice of Enforcement retroactively criminalizes the transfers of tens of thousands of Massachusetts Compliant Firearms that Defendants or their predecessors had approved as lawful transfers at the time such transfers occurred,” the lawsuit alleges. “Despite Defendants’ prior approvals, Defendant Healey unilaterally decreed that thousands of Massachusetts residents are suddenly criminals simply for having exercised their Second Amendment rights.”
Brent Carlton, a spokesman for Commonwealth Second Amendment — a gun rights advocacy group that is not involved in the GOAL lawsuit — stated in a blog post appearing on GOAL’s website that he is “grateful that these brave citizens are coming forward.”
“The collaborative nature of this action is a great example of the unity among gun owners in Massachusetts and across the country when their fundamental rights are threatened.”
Jillian Fennimore, a spokesperson for Healey, defended the July directive in a prepared statement:
“The assault weapons ban keeps dangerous, military-style weapons off our streets. Since our office issued the enforcement guidance last July, sales of illegal assault weapons have ended in Massachusetts. This new lawsuit, the second challenge by the gun lobby, seeks to overturn this 20-year old law. We will vigorously defend the law and continue our enforcement efforts to protect the people of our state.”
Baker spokesperson Lizzy Guyton said the governor “supports the Second Amendment to our constitution and Massachusetts’ gun laws, including the ban on assault weapons,” but added that “the administration generally does not comment on pending lawsuits.”
Read a copy of the lawsuit: