AG Healey’s assault weapon interpretation (please overturn).

I’ve received hundreds of emails like the following from folks — mostly from outside the district that I represent, from all over the state and outside the state.

As a law-abiding Second Amendment supporter in Massachusetts, I urge you to please support both Senate Bill 1316 and Senate Bill 1326.

Both S.1316 and S.1326 seek to challenge the gun ban set forth last summer by Attorney General Healey’s “enforcement notice,” which greatly expands the Commonwealth’s definition of “assault weapon.”  AG Healey alleges that the ban’s definition of “copy” or “duplicate” “assault weapons” has been misinterpreted for the last 18 years and she is simply the first law enforcement official to discover this incorrect interpretation. It’s time to stand up to her unilateral decision which bans many of the most popular semi-automatic rifles lawfully sold and possessed.

Once again, I urge you to please support S.1316 and S.1326, and oppose new gun control legislation which discriminates against lawful gun owners and places further burdens on law-abiding citizens. Thank you.


Here is how I have been answering these emails

I’m a huge fan of Maura Healey — she is a great person and a great Attorney General. And I’m a strong supporter of gun control.

I do feel, based on my own initial review of the issue, that, in this case, she may well have extended the law beyond its intended use. That is an issue that is best resolved in the courts — they are the proper arbiters of disputes about interpretation of a statute. Depending on how this gets resolved by the courts, there may be a need for legislation.

We can’t do anything meaningful without an authoritative court interpretation of the statute.  I think we have to let the litigation resolve before we take any action.

Litigation Update on April 6, 2018

Federal District Judge Young has issued his opinion in this case and has ruled in favor of Attorney General Healey’s position.

I  agree with the judge’s ruling that an assault weapons ban does not violate the second amendment.  I also agree that the ban is not unconstitutionally vague. Those issues seem quite clear based on existing precedent.

The judge did not directly rule on the one issue that had me more troubled — whether the Attorney General had in her enforcement advisory extended the definition of assault weapon beyond that which the legislature originally intended.  The court found that that question was not ready for adjudication because the AG made clear that her action would have prospective effect only and she has not actually undertaken any enforcement under the new policy.

It is worth observing that Washington counsel has appeared in the case. It appears there is a good chance that this case will be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.  But, apparently, the plaintiff’s have not decided their next step.


Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

94 replies on “AG Healey’s assault weapon interpretation (please overturn).”

  1. Sir,
    Overnight the AGO made almost 400,000 of the commonwealth’s most background checked lawful citizens into un-indicted potential felons. That’s 10% of the voting population. Lawful families and businesses are being effected on a daily basis, family businesses will fail under this vague edict, and good people have the AG’s executioner’s axe hanging over their head. Please explain to me why this is not a legislative priority? And how, kicking the can down the road to the courts will remedy a legislative issue, since she did “legislate” and not create new law?

  2. This is a gross overreach and refifinition of law that has significant economic and legal ramifications of potential 300,000 families and numerous business.

    The Committee must make a ruling to put the AG’a actions on hold, preserving the 18 year status quo for the time being. This kind of end-run around due process cannot be tolerated, especially for such important matters concerning rights and long-standing law.

    Give the combined Legislature time for due diligence to see any documented proof and determine if the assurtions of rampant intentional abuse of the law justifies written amendment of law.
    Allow time to do this properly and protect the rights of your constituents above politics.

  3. If the AG had concerns and documented evidence about potential abuse she should have brought it to the Legislature to address properly. She does not have authority to add new definition, tests and rules to prevent consumer purchase of long-standing legal goods under the thinly veiled guise of MA 93A (2) as subject to US 45(a)(1) which are meant to protect consumers against unfair competition and fraud.

    She does not have the authority, and clearly not the ethics, to do an end run around the Legislature knowing that the Session was ending and could not be addressed until next year.

    Pushing responsibility to the courts will take years, and the harm to families and businesses will be catastrophic.

    The AG’s actions need to be put on hold, so due process through due diligence and protect our process of government and the rule of law.

    Important matters such as this which deal with long-standing law, constitutional rights and can potentially create criminals out of law abiding families must be carefully vetted by the combined Legislature.

  4. Paul, I support your point of view.

    And I do have hundreds of law binding citizens expressing the same concern. Why can’t Maura Healey be limited to the responsibilities and authorities that she is elected for? Why suddenly she can abuse her power and start dictating how legislatives should be interpreted? Is she transforming to be both the law maker and attorney general?

    That is a very dangerous move for the commonwealth. Dear Senator, I hope that you can take proper corrective action against MH.

  5. as of the last data from the FBI the more problematic gun type is pistols not rifles. They accounted for 9000 of the 12,000 fun deaths in 2013. According to the CDC, in 2014 gun related suicide accounted for 63.5% and homicide only 32.6%. total deaths was 33,599. If you want to regulate something it should be hand guns

  6. The AG clearly overreached and overstepped her legal authority with her punitive and sneaky implementation of her guidance. She clearly was taking advantage of the Orlando FL shooting tragedy to execute a political stunt to position herself for any possible appointment in the given election of Hillary Clinton to the Presidency. She disgusts me and many thousands of others in this state, and she should be removed from office. As expected, you would never support any legislation in support of individual rights under the 2nd Amendment. You claim that you are pro-gun control, but I think you are really anti 2nd Amendment. There are town police chiefs within your own district who violate the 2nd Amendment and the Massachusetts State Firearms laws for law abiding citizens in their jurisdictions every day. This has been going on for years. I challenge you to have the courage to debate me on their unconstitutional, illegal, and abusive powers.

    1. HI Dean,

      A good place for you to discus your views publicly will be when legislation on these issues gets a hearing before the Public Safety committee.

      Call my office in about a month to check on the schedule if you’d like.


  7. I dont recall any ag who can make laws. She is not getting the whole picture as the more gun bans or rules make us law abiding citizens vunreable to innocent attacks from criminals who do not follow rules or laws. Please bring national carry rules for us. Thanks

  8. Senator Brownsberger,I can appreciate your level headed response to this overreach by the AG. Thanks for paying attention.


  9. In my opinion , it takes a real lowlife to exploit a horrible event of humanity.
    She is trying to spin things to advance her personal opinion to advance her career. It is much easer to attack law abiding citizens than to face the real problem of mental health. When Newtown happened , it was in my head for months trying to figure how this could happen. As more information came out it showed that he had serious issues everyone seemed to be aware of. Did he get treatment?????? What kind of world will my 4 kids and my 9 grandchildren live in? I am a gun owner and I sadly might have voted for Healy and I want my vote back. I think that our elected people need to look at what’s wrong with society and concentrate on the human factor . A gun doesn’t load and shoot itself . I hope what I wrote makes some sense , now I’m tired Of typing.
    I Have had a LTC for 55 years and I think I behaved well .

  10. It’s sad that the state that started the revolution has really come to this. Does anyone remember the principles and ideals this country was founded upon. This action is an example of the tyranny the second amendment was meant to protect against. Massachusetts has allowed the rights of its citizens to be trampled upon. The AG has committed criminal acts against the citizens of this state. What politician has the balls to stand for what is right. The next election let’s vote the right way. Wake up Massachusetts, 1984 or 1776. You decide.

  11. Dear Senator,

    Thank you for your reply. While I believe such a blatant abuse of power by our AG demands every legal tool available to the citizens of Massachusetts I appreciate your intellectual honesty.


  12. The gun ban, to begin with, is unconstitutional. This new interpretation by Maura Healey is just an example of one political party having too much influence, too much power to dictate their agenda. These vindictive laws against citizens have got to stop. They have become seditious against the Constitution and the Second Amendment, our Bill of Rights! But you just keep pushing and pushing until the Supreme Court tells you to stop. Stop letting your position become a power trip. We know who you are and we know what you’re doing. You all will be held accountable. Maybe not now but you will be held accountable in court. If you’re going to pass these laws stop standing on the dead to justify your contempt and tell the truth. You just want to disarm Americans so you can institute marshal law.

  13. With all do respect,the 2nd amendment is a right, not a need. The attorney general doesnt get to just wake up and infringe on a right because she feels like it. Guns dont kill people,peolpe kill people. Its not about how much some one likes another. What is right is right and wrong is wrong. She infringed on a right so that means she is wrong.

  14. Thank you for your response it would help if you enforced current laws that is already on the books. More government is not the answer to all of our problems. As you have seen in the Texas shooting the failure of the Air Force to report the proper information allowed this person to purchase a weapon to kill people. The that you think can protect us failed.

  15. Will we will have to see about relieving you of the responsibility of deciding which to do…kiss Healey’s ass or your job come the next election!!!

  16. Your response shows that you are inclined to agree with Maura Healey but don’t want to incur any political consequences by saying so. If you truly believe that the Attorney General has gone beyond the intentions of existing law why wouldn’t you move to clarify those intentions?

    1. Because enraging Her Majesty Healey might result in her taking away his state police detail and he would have to learn to defend himself like us deplorable peons.

  17. She clearly overstepped her authority, and thus violated the law(not to mention the rights of the citizens of this state). Waiting for the courts to decide the issue means the people she victimized have to pay for the law suit, while our taxes pay for her to litigate against us.

  18. Politics as usual in Mass. do what ever you want to make the AG”s agenda with no accountability.There are more snakes on Beacon Hill than the Quabbin Reservoir.

  19. I firmly believe that the AG well overstepped her bounds by unilaterally changing her interpretation of a law that has been on the books for over 18 years! That is not the way the process is supposed to work! The legislature should put the rules back where they came from and start to address other more critical actions like better control over Drunk Driving and the thousands of lives a year that it takes! I have no problem with the laws that are in place today(Minus Healy Action) it would be nice to open debates on the number of crimes committed by fully liscened citizens to show that they are not the problem! Illeagal huns and unstable citizens are the root! What is being done about that?
    Anyhow thanks for your support on this Healy thing!

  20. I hope this is a wake up call to voters in elections in Massachusetts. We can’t continue to vote for Democrats and expect to not have government infringe on our gun rights. The governor is no ally to use either. He is just as guilty. He doing what he can to keep his job.

  21. Why are our lawmakers constantly allowed to weigh in on RIGHTS already spoken for in the constitution? That is outright tyranny, and chest thumping on the part of our nannying government officials, and is, and should be, absolutely against the law as put forth by the constitution. The second amendment is second only to our first because it is important! Not for hunting or hobby or even self defense necessarily, but for tyranny! When a peoply fears its government you have a tyranny. When a government rightly fears it’s people you have democracy! Let us not forget that a RIGHT is NOT something that can be taken from you! That is a privilege. By definition much of Massachusetts legislation is in direct violation of our supposed rights. My two cents.

  22. Again! It never changes! Make the law abiding suffer for the criminal! Brainwashing 101. And it’s not just the 2nd Amendment, it’s the 1st, 4th, etc. You keep enacting laws upon laws that do not solve the problem. If the elected representative doesn’t do something right away, they won’t get RE-ELECTED, it doesn’t make any difference, just do something even when it doest work! I suggest you all should read the many quotes by Will Rogers. I know it won’t happen, common sense is too simple, right!!

  23. If I understand you correctly, Senator, your position is that AG has the power to interpret the law while anyone else who questions her interpretation should take it to courts – “proper arbiters of disputes about interpretation of a statute”?

    I am somewhat confused here. Did Attorney General Healey settled her dispute about commonly accepted interpretation of MA Assault Weapons Ban in court before her version of it was shoved down our throats? Are you suggesting, Sir, that she has the same power as courts do to interpret the law? Because if not, her “enforcement letter” should be nullified until the matter is properly decided by the judicial branch. And that’s what this legislation is about.

    I would also like to remind you, Sir, that this is not some academic dispute about the meaning of the 2nd Amendment. Her actions put tens of thousands of law abiding citizens of MA under a constant threat of felony charges and made substantial negative impact on the bottom line of many MA based businesses. It’s been going on for a year and a half now, and the first court hearing on the matter was scheduled for May 2018 – a year after the lawsuit was brought up. It’s funny how it only took courts a few days to block President’s “travel ban” but when it’s rights and wellbeing of American citizens at stake – it’s two years before people can even present their case.

  24. I understand your feelings about Maura Healey, I have the same feelings for the constitution, bill of rights and the rule of law. It is shameful that a person in your position would not.

  25. Wasting more taxpayer dollars in litigation is not the answer to AG Healy’s misinterpretation of the statute. It is the Constitutional right of all Americans to keep and bear arms. As our Forefathers did not incorporate limitations within the Second Amendment neither should any part of our government place restrictions on the rights of law abiding American citizens of which types of firearms they can legally own.

    Thomas Greer
    33 Brook St Apt 6
    Brockton, MA 02301

  26. Thank you for attempting to use common sense, which, in this era is NOT too commom.

    I firmly believe that the AG overstepped her bounds by unilaterally changing HER interpretation of the law without using due process. If she unilaterally changed the 1st Amendment would you be going down this rabbit hole with her??

    You have a lot to contend with in Ms Healey and her interpretations of laws. As AG she is supposed to uphold laws not interpret them in her branch of government….That was basic Civics when I went to school

    Best Wishes

  27. As a legal and lawful gun owner it frustrates me that our law makers and elected officials primary response to lawlessness and malicious intentions are almost always pointed at the well intentioned and law abiding gun owners of this country.

    I have no doubt that Maura Healey is an intelligent and very nice person, but that does not negate her actions nor any elected official who unilaterally makes her position above or around the law of this wonderful land.

    Thank you for the response and the opportunity to share further feedback.

    Paul Gilleece

  28. I find that your routine response is what I would expect form one who is anti gun. Just a week or so one of the reps from Cambridge stated that a LTC was a privilege like a drivers license. I right under the US constitution is not a privilege. If you look at the bill of rights it is the only one that says “shall not be infringed”. You took a oath to uphold the constitution but you don’t.

      1. Will,

        Constitutional interpretations aside, the MA legislature was able to act very quickly on bump stocks. When Healey took her action on AR15s in 2016, the word from both houses was (feel free to correct my paraphrase) “we can’t really do anything about this, it’s for the courts to decide”. I’m sorry but that rings hollow.

        The AG’s office derives it’s power to regulate from statute. Further, Healey is interpreting a law the legislature created. The legislature could easily clarify the law, if it wanted to.

        I’d also ask that you saw this in the eyes of a gun owner in Massachusetts who abided by all the laws as everyone saw them at the time. Three prior AGs interpreted the MA law as being exactly like the federal assault weapon ban that ran from 1994 to 2005. Under the federal ban, the ATF approved for sale the type of rifles Healey later said were illegal.

        So, these licensed owners made every effort to comply with a law that the AGs at the time, and indeed the ATF allowed the guns they were buying. Then Healey came along and said those people committed felonies, but she wouldn’t prosecute based on her discretion.

        I would like to summarize all that in a blunt fashion, but I’d rather not use that language on your site.

      2. I should have also mentioned below that those sales of so called “copy cats” was fully known by the state as they were all registered with the EOPS via the FA10 system. All the dealers that sold them were fully licensed as were the buyers. The latter are provably the most law abiding demographic in the state.

  29. While I agree that she has overextended the law, I don’t believe it is responsible to place the burden on the courts when it’s such a blatant over-reach of authority and is clearly unconstitutional. Any court supporting her actions would be way out of line constitutionally and should be re-vetted for constitutionality by the higher courts. After all, it’s the job of the US Constitution to prevent actions such as these, and save the courts resources and tax dollars that these unconstitutional laws impose on citizens. There seems to be a separation of understanding that unconstitutional laws are not, in fact, law and authorities that impose them are in fact violating their sworn oaths and the fundamental rights of all American citizens. No one person or group can just knowingly decide to violate the US Constitution and maintain official capacity. Ms. Healey needs to step down as she makes a mockery of the courts and her sworn oath.

  30. In response to your answer for the email. I am not a fan of Atty. Gen. Healey! I feel she has her own political agenda and she will walk over whatever constitutional rights and amendments she can to get there. She is like all of the politicians who only think about Boston and not about the central or western part of the state were many hunters avid gun enthusiasts who are law-abiding citizens who like a certain hobby. Her assault weapons ban is very broad and it can be interpreted in many ways which could be a bad situation for the second amendment in the state. Why don’t people look at statistics and see more people are killed with firearms that are illegally purchased and carried then they are by people who abide the law get their license to carry permits and follow everything to the letter and where the one penalized.

    I please hope you will into consideration the email and the statement and please oppose the assault ban.


    Joseph Bartoszek

    1. Joe you are exactly right about Maura Heally. If you remember Heally and Elizabeth Warren where both at the DNC convention talking about gun control. These two clowns where banking on a Hillary Clinton Win and maybe a cabinet position if Hillary Clinton was elected.Heally Warren and the dems are playing politics with our lives to advance there careers.

  31. you are a lawmaker. Why wait for a bad law to be made only to be overturned by a court. Don’t wait for a judge. Use your own best judgement and vote the way you think is correct!

  32. Why wait for a judge to rule? If you think it’s not a good law, vote against it. It’s your responsibility.

    1. I can’t really add anything that the other responses haven’t covered. I used to vote independently and am still registered unenrolled. But I am finding it increasingly difficult to consider voting for a democrat any more. I will vote for those who support the constitution I swore an oath to defend. That is not the democratic socialist nanny staters who treat the people they are bound to serve as children.

      1. With all do respect you are wrong Senator. If the legislator revisits the law and rewrites it to show the clear intent, there would be nothing for the courts to interpret.
        I am beginning to feel this let the court decide is a cop out on you and your colleagues not wanting to do your job and be labeled by voters. Even if the court did say the AG was correct in her interpretation. You could then rewrite the law.

  33. I can’t really add anything that the other responses haven’t covered. I used to vote independently and am still registered unenrolled. But I am finding it increasingly difficult to consider voting for a democrat any more. I will vote for those who support the constitution I swore an oath to defend. That is not the democratic socialist nanny staters who treat the people they are bound to serve as children.

  34. You say the courts should handle the attorney generals ban of our guns. Don’t you think She should have gone through the proper channels to amend our 2nd amendment rights. All Maura Healey did was hurt local businesses, and confuse the hell out of every law abiding gun owner regarding owning,selling there AR15s AK47s. No one knows what we can or can do with our own rifles. Overturn Healeys illigal Ban.

  35. Sorry to hear of your support of Healey,
    and support of stupid gun control laws that do nothing to reduce crime, just to make it miserable for Law abiding citizens. Its clear that most of you Ultra Liberal Politicians have not idea of what you are doing with Gun Control and Crime. Most ultra Liberals and Socialist always want to infringe on law abiding peoples rights,
    and constantly stand up for the criminals who cause the crime and don’t
    follow the Laws you pass anyway! All I can say is Hope you are never put in a situation where you or your family needs protection from all of the Drug users and thugs that Liberal policies have created.

  36. Mr. Brownsberger
    AG Maura Healey has left gun owners in the bay state scratching their heads for quite awhile. Weapons on the “Approved Firearms Roster” by the Secretary of Public Safety and Security carries a warning in the list that those guns (which cost manufactures by making them submit several guns to testing) do not necessarily comply with the requirements of the Attorney General’s Handgun Sales Regulations. It goes on to further say that information can be found on the AG website but there is no list there. No wonder gun owners and dealers in this state are confused. Many manufactures of fine guns would rather just ignore Massachusetts than jump these outlandish hurdles.
    I hope this is not your idea of gun control.
    The AG not content with this mess she created, decides she can now find another mess to further alienate law abiding gun owners in the state by deciding she can interpret something that after 18 years that no one else saw.
    Your misguided thought that this needs to be decided in court ignores several facts. It is the legislators job to write the laws of the Commonwealth. If there is a “disputes about interpretation of a statute” the legislators, by doing their job, can easily correct this by revisiting the statue in question and clearly write the intent so as it can not be misinterpreted.

  37. So instead of allowing law abiding citizens there second amendment right you are going to allow criminals to go on carrying firearms illegally without a state issued firearms permit. Why do you want law abiding citizens to pay for the actions of criminals? You have a armed security force My family and I can not afford a security team. Please go play politics with someone else’s life.

  38. Senator, this is just passing the buck. You are afraid to take a substantive stand on this issue for fear of the Left. The Legislature can certainly clarify its intent and the law, if it chooses!

    1. Dear Sir:

      I appreciate your thoughts on this subject and do think hearing from people all over is refreshing even though you are correct in representing your district first.

      Gun Control in Massachusetts has gone too far and penalize the law abiding which crosses into Civil and Constitutional Rights given to all US Citizens.

      Maura Healey picks and chooses which items to enforce/support. Her overreach in July 2016 was too far and too much to approve of, you scapegoat your responsibilities by saying your need a Judicial decision to act. Your job to make the laws the AG’s job is to enforce them not reinterpret 18 years after the fact.

      It would be greatly appreciated to see the the Legislative Branch step up be bold and do its job…. The AG needs to be reined in.

  39. Senator,

    You and the rest of the House and Senate are allowing a dangerous precedent. The role of the AG is to enforce the laws created by the government, not to re-interpret them to suit their political views.

    You are allowing the AG to take an 18 year-old law, that has been tested in court and has a clear interpretation, and change its meaning. This WAS a gun control issue, but now, due to the inaction of the Senate and House, this has gone beyond a gun control issue. Now the issue is our freedoms and laws. Your inaction in allowing the AG to extend the law beyond its intended use opens all laws to future overreach by a single individual like our state’s AG.

  40. I do appreciate your position as far as acknowledging AG Healey’s overreach. It is unfortunate that Charlie Baker and the rest of the Senate and House not only do not support the US Constitution, but won’t even support the Massachusetts Constitution.

    It would seem reasonable, at the very least that both the Mass Senate and House would remind Ms. Healey that her job is to enforce the laws, not to write, or re-interpret them.

    You should not be so quick to abdicate your responsibilities to another branch of government.

  41. Whenever POSSIBLE elected senators and representatives should be responsible for making laws, not judges who are not chosen by the voters. Now we have the opportunity to legally clarify by legislation the meaning of a law that may have been interpreted differently than the the legislature originally intended.

  42. Senator, this is just passing the buck. You are afraid to take a substantive stand on this issue for fear of the Left. The Legislature can certainly clarify its intent and the law, if it chooses!

    1. So every time she oversteps her authority we have to wait years for result through the courts. The constitution is clear. Stop letting her write her own laws and do your job

  43. It’s job of the legislative branch to pass laws,(done). The Attorney General is to ensure the law is enforced, (not interpreted), (not done).
    Do your job and stop the overreach by the Attorney General…

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