Hundreds of gun advocates converged on the Massachusetts State House Saturday, protesting a new “enforcement notice” issued by the state attorney general that effectively bans the sale of so-called "copycat weaons."
Attorney General Maura Healey’s notice indicated that her office will step up enforcement of Massachusetts’ assault weapons ban, including a new crackdown on weapons similar to guns banned under state law, but are changed slightly to avoid regulation, according to Healey’s statement.
“The gun industry has openly defied our laws here in Massachusetts for nearly two decades,” Healey said in a statement at the time. “Increasingly, these guns are the weapon of choice for mass shooters, and we will do everything we can to prevent the kinds of tragedies here that have occurred in places like Orlando, San Bernardino, Newtown and Aurora.”
But protesters in downtown Boston weren’t buying that interpretation, accusing Healey of overstepping her constitutional bounds and passing new laws without legislative approval. Some sported signs that included messages like “Who needs a legislature, we’ve got Healey,” and “Healey is an overreaching tyrant.”
“My rights TRUMP your dead,” one message read.
Another had a photo of Healey with a fake Hitler moustache affixed to her face, accompanied by text that read “Heil Healey!” Another compared her to Hitler and Stalin.
The rally was organized by the Massachusetts Gun Owners’ Action League, which said Healey’s decision made hundreds of thousands of law-abiding gun owners “felons in waiting,” though the notice states it would not be enforced retroactively on sales of weapons prior to July 20.
Protester Dianna Watters, of Billerica, said she saw a parallel between President Barack Obama’s “executive fiats” and Healey’s decision.
“Maura Healey’s done the same thing,” she said. “She’s interpreted a law that’s been in place for 18 years ... and she, by her own little pen and paper, has said, ‘This is the way it’s going to be.’”
“I am an NRA member, I have a license to carry and I don’t want my rights infringed by one person,” she added.
“I have an AR-15 at home and I feel I should be able to keep it,” Tara McGrath of Marlborough said. “It’s the scary black rifle, and people are afraid of those, [but] it’s not more deadly than the rifles with the same caliber that have wood stocks. But, because of how they look, people don’t want to let others own them.”
Gun sales in Massachusetts spiked in the wake of Healey’s announcement, according to the Boston Globe: dealers in the state sold 2,251 military-style rifles Wednesday alone, more than 17 times the number sold the day before.
But, that number was down to 143 Thursday — a sign that dealers were starting to follow the order, Healey told the newspaper.
Derek Kouyoumjian contributed to this report.