The Gun Owners' Action League (GOAL), a Massachusetts gun rights advocacy group, is amping up its challenges against moves by state Attorney General Maura Healey to intensify enforcement of the law banning assault weapons.
The organization debuted a new series of political signs this past weekend that advertise their site HealeyHurtsFamilies.com, which details efforts to stop what they call abuse from Healey’s office after recent battles against the gun industry.
This summer, the attorney general’s office announced that an estimated 10,000 “copycat” assault weapons were sold in Massachusetts last year, which prompted Healey to issue a notice saying she will step up the enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban.
“What she did on July 20 was to virtually make 20,000 families felons-in-waiting overnight by changing the rules,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of GOAL.
Most recently, Healey launched an investigation into the safety of guns made by two major manufacturers, Remington and Glock. Both companies have challenged Healey’s requests for documents in court.
“It’s kind of ancillary to what we’re dealing with,” Wallace said. “Obviously what she did on July 20 is only the beginning.”
The investigation concerns guns produced for sale to members of the general public in the United States, not just within Massachusetts, according to Suffolk County Superior Court documents on Healey’s response to Glock’s petition.
“There are scores of public reports about defects involving firearms, including accidental firing, misfiring, overheating problems and low ‘trigger pull’ leading to horrific stories of accidental shootings by children,” said Cyndi Roy Gonzalez, Healey’s director of communications, in a statement. “As the chief law enforcement office in Massachusetts, we are seeking that information to better inform our residents and to protect them from any safety or manufacturing issues with guns sold here.”
Healey requested records of all complaints about the safety of firearms and ammunition, or that concern accidental discharges, within the previous four years, according to court records. She also asked for information on recalls, safety features such as load indicator or a magazine safety disconnect and how trigger pulls were tested, as well as documents on any warranties provided to gun purchasers and specifications on marketing or advertising the guns.
“She’s waging two wars at once against the firearms industry, against manufacturers and retailers and at same time against law abiding citizens in the commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Jake McGuigan, senior director of state affairs with the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
McGuigan said that as the firearms industry’s trade association, the foundation is putting together a case against the attorney general to “challenge her decision to basically throw out 18 years of the way we were doing business” following the July law changes.
Both McGuigan and Wallace made comments saying that to them, these issues were about more than just banning or controlling assault weapons.
“I think the Massachusetts public, if not the American public, needs to get the message that if she can do this to us she can do this to you,” Wallace said.
“I believe the attorney general is doing this more for political gain. I think she realizes that this is her opportunity to attack the firearms industry whether it’s through the decision in July to ban firearms that have been sold in state for many years or to actually go after our manufacturing companies,” McGuigan said. “We are not the only industry under attack by the attorney general’s office right now.”
The attorney general’s office says that the gun industry lacks transparency unlike the manufacturers of “nearly every other consumer product sold in this country.”
"Many years ago, the gun industry managed to exempt itself from federal consumer product safety oversight, resulting in no public access to consumer complaints about the guns they manufacture,” Gonzalez said. “It’s unfortunate that these gun manufacturers have taken our office to court rather than comply with a simple request for consumer complaints and related information.”