The attorney general of a state is supposed to uphold the laws of that state. Their purpose isn’t to create anything, only to enforce the laws on the books to the best of their ability. It doesn’t even matter whether they agree with the law in most cases. They’re supposed to deal with what’s there, not what they wish was there.
In Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey has forgotten that little tidbit. Instead, she thinks she has the power to craft law wholesale.
It’s a mistake that has led to a new lawsuit against her and the state.
Baystate Firearms, of Peabody, and Cape Gun Works, of Hyannis, filed their challenge in a Suffolk County court on Wednesday to Healey’s 2016 enforcement action. The shops argue that instead of enforcing the state’s “assault weapon” ban as written, Healey issued an “entirely new interpretation” of the law that deemed some constitutionally protected firearms once considered “Massachusetts compliant” as illegal.
Just over a year after taking office, Healey announced she was ratcheting up enforcement of the state’s assault weapon ban by targeting “copycat” guns whose actions were similar or interchangeable to AR-15s and AK-47s but otherwise met legal requirements by being sold without features such as a flash suppressor, bayonet lug or telescoping stock. She contended as many as 10,000 such rifles were sold in the Commonwealth in 2015.
The lawsuit filed this week argues that the state lawmakers who crafted the current law only allowed a “features test” similar to the now-expired federal assault weapon ban, not a similarity test, which was only added by Healey without legislation or public input.
Although not named as a plaintiff, the lawsuit is supported by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who has argued the new interpretation by Healey compromised the retailers’ livelihoods without increasing public safety. Larry Keane, the organization’s senior vice president and general counsel, said that Healey and her staff “clearly overreached their statutory authority and decided to legislate from that office without the benefit of any public process and in total disregard of 18 years of Massachusetts firearm law, under which firearm retailers operated.”
The issue here is that Healey has basically banned guns by fiat, rather than urging lawmakers to use the correct procedures.
What’s bizarre is that Healey did this in a state where banning guns is almost as popular a pastime as baseball or football. She couldn’t find anti-gun lawmakers who would deal with these supposed copycat firearms?
Of course, she could. It’s not really about the guns for Healey. No, I’d wager that it’s really about making sure people know just how anti-gun she is. She’s likely trying to establish her bona fides before seeking higher office in the future. “As attorney general, Maura Healey fought to crack down on copycat guns meant to skirt common sense gun regulations,” sounds awfully good in a campaign ad in an anti-gun state, right?
The problem is, she doesn’t have the authority to decide other guns are illegal when they actually comply with the law.
This is one lawsuit that needs to be fought, needs to be won, and needs to see Healey smacked down and reminded of what the hell her job actually is.