Healey’s assault weapon directive on target

AG's clarification is in keeping with the state's commonsense gun laws

ONE OF THE main rallying cries of the NRA and the gun lobby is that we don’t need any new gun laws to reduce gun violence. The gun lobbyists assert that we just need to enforce the laws already on the books.

That’s why rather than objecting, these groups should be applauding efforts by Attorney General Maura Healey to enforce current Massachusetts law when it comes to copycat assault weapons.

It’s no secret that Commonwealth law bans the sale of assault weapons and copies or duplicates of these guns. Nor is there any mystery about whether greater enforcement is needed, as more than 10,000 of these weapons were sold in Massachusetts last year due to a loophole exploited by gun manufacturers.

Earlier this summer Healey announced a moderate, commonsense measure to address this problem and stop irresponsible gun manufacturers from deliberately circumventing Massachusetts law. For too long these gun manufacturers have been making copycat versions of assault weapons and marketing them under the label “state compliant.” While they may lack a few features, they are for all intents and purposes – especially their deadliness – assault weapons.

Healey’s law enforcement initiative will go a long way in protecting Massachusetts children and families, while also respecting the rights of lawful Commonwealth gun owners. This much-needed step has already received widespread support from law enforcement, public health organizations, education and community groups, and a variety of elected officials and community leaders throughout Massachusetts.

Too many Americans – about 33,000 – lose their lives to gun violence each year, and hundreds more are injured each day. Increasingly, assault weapons are the guns of choice in mass shootings because they inflict the maximum amount of destruction in the shortest amount of time.

The carnage, horror, and grief produced by gun violence – and assault weapons in particular – is something nobody should have to experience. Unfortunately, there were more mass shootings than days last year – children and adults gunned down, families destroyed in minutes.

Many of the most horrific shootings over the past several years have been carried out with assault rifles, and we’ve come to know these tragic events by location: Orlando, Baton Rouge, South Carolina, Newtown, Aurora, Virginia Tech, to name just a few, and countless others that don’t make the news each day.

Even Massachusetts has not been immune to mass shootings. One of this state’s most deadly mass shootings happened back in 2000 in Wakefield, where a man shot and killed seven co-workers using an assault rifle and other guns.

By issuing this directive, Healey is doing her job and working to keep Massachusetts citizens safe. Sadly, her determination to simply enforce state law has made her the object of vicious personal insults by some vocal extremists. The verbal attacks have been disappointing and disturbing, and the main arguments voiced by opponents have no basis in fact.

To be clear, this measure is not a new law. The sale of copycat assault weapons is illegal in Massachusetts and has been for nearly two decades. This directive is simply an effort to enforce existing law before more Massachusetts residents lose their lives to preventable gun violence. Guns that possess virtually the same operating system or components as an assault weapon are assault weapons – no matter how hard gun manufacturers try to label or market them otherwise.

Just as important, Healey’s announcement respects the rights of responsible Commonwealth gun owners. Plus it exempts individuals who bought copycat assault weapons before the July directive.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Massachusetts residents understand that assault weapons have no place on our streets and parks — and certainly not in our restaurants, theaters, churches, and schools — where increasingly they are destroying too many American lives.

Meet the Author
Meet the Author
Our Commonwealth is a leader in commonsense gun control laws, a key reason why gun fatalities in our state are among the lowest in the nation. We understand that these laws save lives, and that’s why proper, sensible law enforcement is so critical. While no single law will prevent every act of violence, the decision to do nothing certainly costs the lives of children, women, and men.

Janet Goldenberg and Sheila Decter are members of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, which represents more than 30 Massachusetts organizations, civic and religious, urban and suburban, including the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action.