Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey seeks dismissal of federal lawsuit over ‘copycat’ assault weapons crackdown

November 22, 2016 – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey on Tuesday asked a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by four Massachusetts gun shops over her crackdown on “copycat” assault weapons.

The four shops’ lawsuit alleged Healey’s crackdown, first announced in July, was “unconstitutionally vague, invalid, and unenforceable.” They were joined in the lawsuit by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, arguing that Healey was overstepping the bounds of her authority.

In the motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Healey’s office said the “only question” for the federal court is whether her office’s “clarification” of the phrase “copies or duplicates” burdens Second Amendment rights as much as the gun shops’ lawsuit claims.

The enforcement notice issued by her office as part of the crackdown “applies only to the narrow class of weapons” that are copies or duplicates of banned assault weapons like the Colt AR-15 and the AK-47, her office said.

Her action “imposes no substantial burden” on Second Amendment rights, the motion says.

“It has no effect whatsoever on the thousands of firearms, rifles, and shotguns that are not assault weapons, either because they are specifically exempted from the state Assault Weapons Ban, because they were manufactured before September 13, 1994,” when the federal assault weapons ban passed, Healey’s motion to dismiss says, while also arguing federal court is the wrong jurisdiction for the lawsuit.

The federal assault weapons ban expired in 2004. At the state level, Massachusetts lawmakers passed an assault weapons ban in 1998.

Gun rights advocates said Healey took a unilateral step through her enforcement notice. Jim Wallace, the head of the Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts, told the State House News Service in July, “These laws were passed in 1998, they were redone in 2004, then they were reviewed in 2014, so the Legislature is already fine with what is going on. What other reason would a person unilaterally decide, I’m going to change the rules overnight?”

Healey’s enforcement notice doesn’t change the list of handguns, including semi-automatic pistols, on the state’s “Approved Firearms Roster,” the motion to dismiss adds.

“Since 1998, state law has banned the sale and possession of assault weapons, including copies and duplicates of AR-15s and AK-47s,” Jillian Fennimore, a Healey spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We know, from the many mass shootings across the country in recent years, that keeping these military-style weapons off our streets will make our communities safer, and we are glad to see that gun dealers and manufacturers are now complying with the law.”

The illegal sale of assault weapons in Massachusetts has “effectively ended” since July’s enforcement notice, she added.

“We strongly believe this lawsuit – which seeks to block the Attorney General from issuing guidance – has no merit and we have asked the court to dismiss it,” she said.

By Gintautas Dumcius, MassLive
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