September 21, 2017
Violence Rises No Thanks to Irrational Gun Ban
On July 20, 2016 Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey exceeded her authority and unlawfully banned certain firearms that had been legal to sell and possess in the Commonwealth. Healey’s vague directive was an end-run around the legislature and NSSF has challenged her action in federal court.
She argued this move was an “enforcement notice” that is merely clarifying existing law, while also creating from whole cloth two new feature tests to determine if a firearm is legal or a banned firearm. In her error-filled press conference touting her unlawful action, she blamed the law-abiding firearms industry for recent acts of terrorism and the violent misuse of firearms by criminals, “Today, we’ve put gun manufacturers and gun dealers on notice that we’re cracking down on the illegal sale of assault weapons in Massachusetts…My office’s action today will give us the full protection of the state assault weapons ban – and not leave it to gun manufacturers’ self-appointed interpretation.”
As NSSF’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence Keane said in response to her “enforcement notice,” that “Attorney General Healey and/or her staff have overreached their authority and decided to legislate from her office without the benefit of any public process. Her actions totally disregard 18 years of Massachusetts firearm law, supported by all state regulatory agencies and understood by all concerned, in which firearm retailers have operated. The Attorney General has undermined the legislative and public process by unilaterally declaring products that were legal to be illegal. In doing so, she has endangered the livelihoods of family-owned businesses and made potential felons out of tens of thousands of law-abiding citizens.”
After taking such action to ban semiautomatic rifles, which are very rarely ever used in crime in Massachusetts, it must come as quite a surprise to the attorney general that firearm-related violence in the City of Boston is up from January through Sept. 17, compared to the same period in 2016.
According to preliminary data published by the Boston Police Department, the total number of citywide shooting incidents rose to 156 from 129, an increase of 21 percent. This is despite the fact that overall crime is down 6 percent in the city. Springfield and Worcester do not publish this data on their websites, so it remains to be seen whether similar trends are evident in other Bay State cities. Either way, it’s clear the “enforcement notice” is not stopping criminals from breaking the law in the state capital.
The firearms industry is committed to programs that help reduce these unfortunate incidents of violence, such as Don’t Lie for the Other Guy and Project ChildSafe. And it is no surprise to anyone truly paying attention that even as the number of firearms legally owned increases substantially each year, violence nationwide continues to decline.
But the important thing for policymakers to remember is that criminals do not abide by laws, regulations or vague “enforcement notices.” Instead of layering additional burdens on those legally exercising their Constitutional rights, Massachusetts Attorney General Healey, and others in authority allied with those in the gun control community, would be better off targeting the actions of criminals and prosecuting those committing crime.