A Massachusetts Democratic Attorney General Candidate Supports Repealing The Second Amendment; Will It Affect Her Chances?

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2022/07/22/a-massachusetts-democratic-attorney-general-candidate-supports-repealing-the-second-amendment-will-it-affect-her-chances/

Brookline labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan is running to be the next attorney general of Massachusetts.

She’s one of three Democrats in the race along with former Boston city councilor Andrea Campbell and Quentin Palfrey, the Democratic Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in Massachusetts in 2018. Unlike them, Liss-Riordan has called for repealing the Second Amendment, which protects the right to keep and bear arms; since making the statement in 2019, she has never walked back her support for the it, though it has not been a point of emphasis for her during this campaign.

It’s an unpopular position, even in generally pro-gun-control Massachusetts. A March 2018 WBUR poll found that 28 percent of Bay Staters supported it while 67 percent opposed it.

But will it hurt her chances of winning the election?

Political scientists tell NewBostonPost they don’t think so; they think a candidate could win statewide office in the Commonwealth supporting a Second Amendment repeal. 

Boston College political scientist Dave Hopkins told NewBostonPost that while opposing an individual right to keep and bear arms might hurt a candidate’s chances elsewhere, here the situation is different.

“In other states, it might matter a lot, but probably not in Massachusetts,” Hopkins said by email. “It’s a pro-gun-control state, and if Liss-Riordan wins the Democratic nomination it’s unclear at best whether the Republicans will have the resources to run a visible campaign against her in any event.”

If Liss-Riordan wins the Democratic primary in September, she would face Republican Jay McMahon of Bourne in the general election in November. McMahon lost the 2018 attorney general race to incumbent Maura Healey, a Democrat, 70 percent to 30 percent, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.

Emerson College political scientist Gregory Payne told NewBostonPost that opposing the Second Amendment makes Liss-Riordan stand out in the Democratic primary and could help her earn support.

“I thought it was a bold stance and I think there’s gravitas behind that for many groups,” Payne said in a telephone interview. “I think you’re gonna see more people tinkering with what’s an extreme view in many people’s perspective, but I think we’re at that point with gun violence, et cetera. I think what she’s attempting to do within the constituency is you kind of mark out your territory. It’s a distinguishing characteristic between her and the other candidates and I think she’s found it.”

“I think she will certainly coalesce a group of people behind her for that. I think when she’s using the word ‘repeal,’ that’s a very bold statement, but it will attract a certain group of people who think that’s the only solution,” he added.

Bridgewater State University political scientist Michael Kryzanek told NewBostonPost that while calling for repealing the Second Amendment may earn the attention and support of progressives in a Democratic primary, as a policy matter it won’t actually happen.

“Repealing the 2nd Amendment is a popular rallying cry among progressives but since a repeal requires a 2/3rd vote in support from both House and Senate and then a majority vote in 3/4ths of state legislatures, repeal is all but impossible,” Kryzanek wrote in an email message. “Shannon Liss-Riordan took this position 3 years ago and may have come around to the current position of liberals based on stiffer background checks, red flag laws, and age requirements for gun purchases.

“There is just little prospect of addressing the issue of military style weapons and other high-capacity handguns, especially with a conservative majority in the Supreme Court and the prediction by many that the Republicans will win back the House in the midterm elections,” he added.

Suffolk University political science and legal studies professor Kenneth Cosgrove told NewBostonPost that for Liss-Riordan, the position is an attempt at virtue signaling to progressives. 

“The simplest thing here is that she is just position-taking because individual state level officials have no say in federal Constitutional amendments or requirements to hold federal office,” Cosgrove wrote in an email message. “Her quote also shows the value of federalism as a political system in the United States. ”

Liss-Riordan expressed support for repealing the Second Amendment when running for U.S. Senate a few years back – and has never walked back her position. 

For a time, Liss-Riordan also ran in the 2020 U.S. Senate Democratic primary in Massachusetts. She dropped out in January 2020 — long before the primary — about four months after then-Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-Newton) joined the race against incumbent (and eventual winner) Ed Markey.

During her bid for U.S. Senate, Liss-Riordan called for more restrictions on guns than Markey (D-Malden) did. She said she does not think that the American public should have the right to keep and bear arms.

She made that clear in the aftermath of mass shootings in both Ohio and Texas in August 2019.

“Politics as usual in Washington has been devastating for the victims of gun violence and their families. I am tired of half steps, old ideas and fake urgency around the problem we face:  the presence of guns in our communities. Enough is enough. It is time we take real action and repeal the Second Amendment,” Liss-Riordan said in a written statement on August 6, 2019. “I agree with the late Justice John Paul Stevens:  the Second Amendment is ‘a relic of the 18th century.’ We need leaders in Washington who understand that, and have the courage and the will to fight to repeal the Second Amendment.”

Liss-Riordan’s campaign could not be reached for comment on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday this week.


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