In re-elect bid, Senator touts opposition to Healey’s weapons crackdown

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STATE HOUSE — Though legislation to strip Attorney General Maura Healey of her power to regulate firearms — filed in response to her heightened enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban — did not gain traction in the final days of formal legislative sessions this summer, at least one lawmaker is ready to renew the push next year.

In a letter seeking support for his re-election bid, Westfield Republican Sen. Donald Humason wrote to members of the Gun Owners Action League that he intends to re-file a bill that would remove the attorney general’s authority to regulate gun sales and repeal her recent crackdown on so-called “copycat” assault weapons.

“I am one of a handful of legislators on Beacon Hill who can always be counted on to stand up for gun owners, sportsmen, and the Second Amendment,” Humason wrote in an email Monday to GOAL members, asking for their help in his campaign against Southampton Democrat J.D. Parker O’Grady.

On July 20, Healey announced plans to step up enforcement of the 1998 assault weapons ban to focus on copies or duplicates of forbidden guns. In making the announcement, she said gun manufacturers skirt the intent of the law by making tweaks that do not “address the lethality of the weapons” and market them as “Massachusetts compliant” versions.

Gun owners quickly gathered to protest Healey’s enforcement notice, describing it as both overly vague and an overreach of authority. Lawmakers and Gov. Charlie Baker have asked Healey to clarify specifics of the measure. Meanwhile, anti-violence advocates, 19 mayors from across the state and the five previous attorneys general praised Healey’s actions as an effort to enforce existing law and cut down on gun violence.

The attorney general said Monday she plans to stand by her enforcement, despite the backlash.

During an interview on Boston Herald Radio, Healey said sales of assault weapons have “virtually stopped” in Massachusetts since she issued her notice, as gun manufacturers and dealers have come into compliance.

“I’ve received a lot of support from gun owners, too, saying, ‘We know the difference between a hunting rifle, a sport rifle, a handgun and an assault weapons. It’s not lost on us and good for you for making clear that this is the law,'” Healey said. “And as I say, as we sit here today, Massachusetts is the only state that can say, in this country, that assault weapon sales are banned…and that sales aren’t actually happening, and that’s a good thing, so I’m going to continue to stand by our action. I think this is a matter of public safety, it’s a matter of public health.”

In his letter, Humason said that Healey had “tried to outlaw common modern sporting rifles.”

Humason, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr and Rep. Marc Lombardo all filed legislation in late July seeking modify or eliminate the attorney general’s authority to regulate firearm sales. None of the bills were acted on before the July 31 end of formal sessions.

Healey’s enforcement notice has also become the target of a legal challenge. On Sept. 22, four Massachusetts gun retailers and the National Shooting Sports Foundation announced they had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court arguing that Healey overstepped her legal authority and deprived firearms sellers of due process. The retailers involved in the suit are Pullman Arms Inc. of Worcester; Guns and Gear, LLC of Agawam; Paper City Firearms of Holyoke; and Grrr Gear of Orange.

Healey on Monday said the “gun lobby has trotted out time and time again in the last few weeks” claims that she is unilaterally rewriting the law.

“If you look at the actual words of the statute that was passed back in 1998, you see that it bans assault weapons and copies and duplicates of assault weapons,” she said. “That’s the part of the law that we’re enforcing.”

— Written by Katie Lannan

Copyright State House News Service