As an opening salvo, let me make clear that I am not writing to change anyone’s mind about guns or gun ownership. I support the Second Amendment. I believe the right to keep and bear firearms is an individual right, as the Supreme Court affirmed in the landmark cases District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010).
You may, or may not, agree. Thanks to the Second Amendment, we Americans are free to hold and express the opinions enumerated in the First Amendment.
But no one is free to violate the Constitution, due process and the rights of their fellow citizens. Yet that is exactly what Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey did on July 20, when she issued an interpretation of the state’s 1998 “assault weapons” ban.
I add the quotes because, while any weapon in the wrong hands can be deadly, there is no such thing as an assault weapon per se. Rather, there are politicians who seek to restrict weapons which they find distasteful or believe to be particularly dangerous. By creating labels and definitions, they are able to enact restrictions without violating the Second Amendment.
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Massachusetts’ “assault weapons” ban was modeled on a federal ban — which has since lapsed — that barred the possession or sale of certain weapons with two or more of several specific features that some consider to be hallmarks of an “assault weapon.”
Healey’s July action, in the form of an enforcement notice, declared that weapons with internal firing mechanisms similar to those of banned weapons, or ones that had key components that could be interchanged with those of banned weapons, would henceforth be themselves considered banned weapons.
Four Massachusetts gun shops, including Pullman Arms Inc. of Worcester, along with the Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, are firing back with a lawsuit, saying Healey’s action are “unconstitutionally vague, invalid, and unenforceable.”
The plaintiffs point out that for the last 18 years, Massachusetts gun shops, gun owners and law enforcement have universally interpreted the law to ban only those guns enumerated in the original legislation. Healey’s actions, they note, were taken without any public input or notice, and included a subsequent series of notices that are contradictory and confusing.
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Indeed, the state Legislature considered and rejected the very points Healey is attempting to enact. The suit reads in part:
“The Massachusetts Legislature in enacting G.L. c. 140 § 121 did not enact a ‘similarity’ test or ‘interchangeability’ test to define what constitutes an “assault weapon” because no such tests existed in the federal law. The ‘similarity’ test and ‘interchangeability’ test did not exist anywhere until July 20, 2016, when it was created for the first time by the Office of the Attorney General.”
The suit further contends:
“If the Attorney General’s Enforcement Notice is broadly interpreted, it applies to all semiautomatic firearms. If that is a correct reading of the regulations, they violate the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution to keep and bear arms because it bans the manufacture, sale, and possession of a broad universe of rifles, pistols, and shotguns that are commonly owned and used by citizens of Massachusetts for lawful purposes including self-defense in the home.”
As I said at the outset, I am not writing to change anyone’s mind about guns or gun ownership. But if you didn’t already believe that Healey is an anti-gun zealot, read the entire lawsuit and study her actions, which of late have included going after gun manufacturers for alleged “defects.”
I lose not a moment’s sleep over anyone who has the education, training and temperament needed to be a responsible gun owner. Indeed, I wish there were many more such responsible people, and fervently hope one is on hand the next time an assailant attempts to perpetrate mass murder in a mall, nightclub, school or other public space.
I trust that every thinking individual agrees that we need to take guns out of the wrong hands. But only the far-left true believers such as Maura Healey believe we also need to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
Well, Healey is entitled to her view. But as the state’s chief law enforcement officer, she has no place issuing a unilateral ruling that contravenes the intent of the Legislature, upends 18 years of established practice, and places thousands of citizens under the shadow of potential criminal prosecution.
The Founding Fathers would have recognized such an action for what it is — tyranny. We should do the same.