July 25, 2016
Representative Gifford calls on Attorney General to rescind latest gun law Enforcement Notice
BOSTON – State Representative Susan Williams Gifford (R- Wareham) has joined with her legislative colleagues in a bipartisan effort to call upon the Attorney General to rescind her recent Enforcement Notice relative to the state’s assault weapons ban.
Representative Gifford was one of 48 House members and 10 Senate members to co-sponsor a letter to Attorney General Maura Healey expressing their strong concerns about her July 20, 2016 Enforcement Notice, which notified licensed gun dealers that her office is “stepping up” its enforcement efforts against the sale and possession of firearms deemed to be “copies” or “duplicates” of guns banned under the state’s 1998 assault weapons law. The letter was signed by 40 Republicans and 18 Democrats.
In her notice, Healey outlined a two-test process her office will now use to determine if a weapon is banned under the law. Specifically, she has ruled that “a weapon is a copy or duplicate if its internal operating system is essentially the same as those of a specifically-banned weapon or if the gun has key functional components that are interchangeable with those of a banned weapon.”
Legislators who signed the letter strongly objected to the manner in which the Attorney General issued the Enforcement Notice, noting that this policy decision was implemented without providing any advance notice or soliciting input from the public or the Legislature.
“We want to be clear that we are not opposed to revisiting the state’s gun laws periodically to ensure that they are up-to-date and being properly enforced,” legislators wrote. “However, we believe strongly that any such review should be accompanied by a rigorous debate of the Legislature, with full public input, before any changes are made to ensure that lawful gun owners have a clear understanding of the law and how it will be enforced.”
“Regardless of opinions pertaining to our 2nd Amendment rights, everyone should be extremely concerned about the way in which the A.G. has acted,” said Rep. Gifford. “Today, it’s Healey’s interpretation of gun laws that have been on the books for years. Who knows what she will do next. We are working on finding solutions to protect the rights of law abiding citizens.”
According to the Attorney General’s office, “For many years, the gun industry has been marketing and selling what they describe as ‘Massachusetts compliant’ assault weapons, despite the fact that these guns are actually banned under existing state law.” Lawmakers questioned the timing of the Enforcement Notice, wondering why Healey and her two predecessors in the Attorney General’s office have never initiated any prosecutorial actions challenging the sale or possession of these weapons.
“For the last 18 years, the law has been implemented and enforced consistently, both by your office and your predecessors,” the letter states. “Your new directive, which has been presented by your office as nothing more than a closing of “loopholes” in the current law, appears in fact to be much more than that: the enforcement of a whole new law that unfairly infringes on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners in Massachusetts.”
On her website, the Attorney General acknowledges there is currently no list of weapons that are banned under state law, but indicated that her office “will work with gun dealers, as necessary, to help them identify the guns that meet one or both of the tests of a copy or duplicate.”
“Licensed dealers and gun owners are rightfully concerned about the ambiguity of the directive and the possibility that they could inadvertently violate its terms and thereby subject themselves to substantial penalties, including fines, imprisonment and license revocation,” the legislators wrote.
Healey has indicated that her office will not pursue legal action against anyone who had purchased one of these weapons prior to the issuance of her Enforcement Notice. Licensed gun dealers who have any of these items in stock have been told they may “transfer them out-of-state to jurisdictions where sales of these weapons are legal.”
A Message from Susan
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From my efforts on the local level as a Wareham Selectwoman to my current tenure as State Representative for the 2nd Plymouth District, I have worked hard over the years to address the needs of area communities and look forward to continuing to do so for years to come.
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To help youth constituents learn about the State House and the legislative process, Susan hosts students from the Wareham Middle School on a tour of the state capitol building. more photos >>