Democrat Running for Governor Takes Aim At Smith & Wesson, Wants Manufacturing Ban in Massachusetts

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By Matt Murphy

BOSTON — Massachusetts already has a ban on the ownership of assault weapons, but one Democrat for governor thinks the state could do more to disassociate itself from the types of firearms that have been used to execute multiple mass shootings around the country.

Jay Gonzalez, one of three Democrats running for governor, called Wednesday for the state to outlaw the manufacturing of assault rifles for commercial sale, targeting the Springfield-based Smith & Wesson, a major western Massachusetts employer.

Smith & Wesson, a subsidiary of American Outdoor Brands, manufactured the AR-15-style rifle used in the Parkland, Florida high school shooting.

Gonzalez offered his proposal hours before he joined students from Boston, Worcester, Springfield, and Holyoke to rally outside the headquarters of Smith & Wesson to demand a meeting with the gun manufacturer’s chief executive to discuss how the manufacturer can help reduce gun violence.

“Weapons that cannot be legally purchased in Massachusetts should not be manufactured in our state,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve got to finally say enough is enough. The gun used in Parkland was manufactured by Smith & Wesson. If we had a law in place banning that from happening, that gun never would have ended up in the hands of that young man.”

A spokeswoman for American Outdoor Brands did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the candidate’s proposal, or questions about what types of weapons the company manufactures in Springfield.

Gonzalez said he believes that the proposal, if adopted by the Legislature, would withstand any legal challenge, even though the candidate is proposing to restrict a company from selling a product legal at the federal level in other states.

“But I wouldn’t surprised if they tried to challenge it. It’s what the [National Rifle Association] does,” he said. Smith & Wesson would continue to be able to supply the military and law enforcement with assault rifles, under Gonzalez’s proposal.

The attention trained on the state’s gun laws came as students from around the state marched on Beacon Hill on Wednesday to rally against gun violence and promote the adoption at the state level of extreme risk protection orders, which would allow the courts to order the confiscation of firearms from individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature have said they are considering the red-flag law proposal, but some Republican lawmakers have questioned whether it is necessary given that the state already allows police to revoke firearms licenses if someone is deemed to be a threat.

Bob Massie, another Democrat running for governor, said he supports Gonzalez’s proposal.

“I support the proposed ban on the manufacture and sale of assault weapons to civilians, as well as the raising of the age to purchase guns to 21 and the extreme risk protective orders requested by the students. Massachusetts should always lead,” Massie told the News Service in an email message.

Gonzalez blamed the lack of action in Congress on guns for making it even more important that Massachusetts take the extra step to ban assault weapon manufacturing within its borders. He also supports extreme risk protection orders and the reinstatement of a federal assault weapons ban.

“In the absence of action being taken at the federal level, particularly in the wake of these continued tragic mass shootings, I think we have to do everything we can here in Massachusetts to stop this from happening,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez spoke to the News Service after attending the student rally at Smith & Wesson headquarters where he said about 100 students delivered a letter to a security guard requesting a meeting with company executives in the next 30 days. Though he said the students were not given any guarantee that the letter would be delivered to senior company officials, the students indicated to him that they would return if they did not receive a response.

“There were a lot of very articulate students who spoke about the fear they and their families face living in communities where gun violence is not uncommon. They were speaking up, and I wanted to encourage them,” Gonzalez said. “Hopefully their voices will be heard and action will finally be taken at the federal level to prevent these weapons of war from ever killing more kids in this country ever again.”

A spokesman for Democrat Setti Warren, another candidate for governor, said the former Newton mayor’s campaign did not have any comment on Gonzalez’s proposal.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s re-election campaign did not directly address questions about whether the governor would back a manufacturing ban, instead reiterating Baker’s support for a federal assault weapons ban.

“Governor Baker is proud that Massachusetts is a national leader on gun control, and believes the federal government should quickly enact meaningful reforms to keep our communities safe, including an assault weapons ban,” campaign spokesman Billy Pitman said.