AG Healey’s assault weapon interpretation (please overturn). (94 Responses)

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.


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    Will Brownsberger
    State Senator
    2d Suffolk and Middlesex District