Gun Rights Rally Headed for State House After Healey Crackdown

Opponents assembled quickly after AG Maura Healey announced new enforcement of the state's assault weapons ban.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey arrives at a meeting of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in Boston. Healey said her office will submit recommendations around gambling consumer protection issues soon. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Photo via AP

Opponents of Attorney General Maura Healey’s recent crackdown on so-called “copycat” assault weapons plan to rally on the State House steps this Saturday.

Healey announced on Wednesday that her office was stepping up enforcement of the state’s ban on assault rifles, targeting guns with designs similar to those of banned weapons like the AR-15. Gunmakers have been selling knockoff rifles marketed as Massachusetts “compliant,” she said this week, estimating that more than 10,000 “copycat” rifles had been sold in the state last year.

Backlash to the announcement was swift.

Some gun rights supporters protested in front of the State House on Thursday and then promised to return at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a bigger crowd for a rally organized by the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts. The Legislature will be in session.

Commonwealth also reports that, since the announcement, there has been a “frenzy” of purchases at the state’s gun stores, which sold more than 2,500 rifles on Wednesday alone. More than 22,000 people have signed a petition opposing the new enforcement.

“I’ve been looking at the reactions that’s been going on in social media and text messages I’ve been getting, and I think that Maura Healey really stepped in it,” Massachusetts Gun Rights President Christopher Pinto told the State House News Service yesterday. “This is like the day of infamy for Maura Healey. She’s going to awaken the sleeping giant of gun owners in Massachusetts. There’s nearly half a million of us in Massachusetts—Republican, Democrat and Independent—and she’s really woken up a sleeping giant, and her chances of getting elected governor or keeping her office could be over.”

State law passed in 1998 already forbids the sale of assault weapons in the state, which it defines based on a list of specific gun varieties it prohibits, like the AR-15. It also forbids gunmakers from selling weapons that aren’t those specific varieties, but are similar to them.

Healey’s crackdown, she said this week, would allow gun owners to keep the rifles they bought before she sent her directive to gun manufacturers and dealers on Wednesday. She also published an op-ed in the Boston Globe, “The loophole in the Mass. assault weapons ban.”

Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday told WGBH that Healey has the “authority and jurisdiction” to step up enforcement of the state’s existing laws, according to the State House News Service.

He clarified his position in a statement reported today by MassLive.

“I support the Second Amendment to our constitution, as well as Massachusetts’ gun laws, including the ban on assault weapons and believe the Attorney General should take enforcement action against gun manufacturers who seek to skirt the Commonwealth’s laws,” Baker said. He added, “Given that her recent action potentially leaves tens of thousands of law abiding citizens open to criminal charges, I believe it is important to protect those who purchased firearms they understood to be legal on or before July 20th of this year.”