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 Industry Counters Massachusetts AG’s “Enforcement Notice”

NSSF MA Statement - Naples Gun School - FFL - Gun Sales & Training

By Jade Moldé

In September, four federally-licensed firearms retailers in Massachusetts and the NSSF filed action in Massachusetts Federal Court to challenge the constitutionality of Attorney General Maura Healey’s “Enforcement Notice” sent to dealers and manufacturers in the Commonwealth. The notice warned that the attorney general’s office would step up enforcement of the state’s assault weapons ban, including a crackdown on the sale of “copycat” weapons.

The lawsuit states Healey’s office overstepped its legal authority and deprived retailers their due process protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The action seeks declaratory relief, which will clarify the notice’s status, and a permanent injunction enjoining enforcement, which will negate the effects of the notice.

The retailers filing the suit are Pullman Arms Inc. of Worcester; Guns and Gear LLC of Agawam; Paper City Firearms of Holyoke; and Grr Gear of Orange.

“Attorney General Maura Healey’s actions were unconstitutional. Firearms retailers in Massachusetts cannot determine the meaning or scope of the Attorney General’s Enforcement Notice and subsequent explanations,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF senior VP and general counsel. “Because criminal penalties can result due to Attorney General Healey’s unilateral reinterpretation of a state statute done without administrative process or input from affected parties, her office exceeded its lawful authority and retailers were deprived of their due process protections under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”

The lawsuit stems from Healey’s July 20 “Enforcement Notice on Prohibited Assault Weapons.” It warned firearm manufacturers and dealers against the sale of prohibited firearms and defined “copy” or “duplicate” firearms under the state’s assault weapons ban — changing the long-understood definition of Massachusetts’ so-called “assault weapons.”

Under this notice, all semi-automatic firearms — including .22-caliber rifles used by the Boy Scouts and other youth shooting programs — would be banned. Firearms marketed as “state compliant” or “Massachusetts compliant” could still be deemed “unlawful.”

This anti-gun/industry attack prompted a widespread response. For example, Springfield, Mass.-based Smith & Wesson donated $500,000 to NSSF’s #GUNVOTE campaign in August — the largest donation the campaign has received.

S&W CEO James Debney said the donation was made on behalf o f c o m p a n y e m p l o y e e s a n d “especially the law-abiding firearm owners of Massachusetts, who have so recently been denied their fundamental rights through arbitrary government action that threatens to turn lawful gun owners and dealers into criminals.”

NSSF insists the enforcement notice represents an unlawful overstep of power by the attorney general.

“ If the Attorney General's Enforcement Notice is understood as applying to all semi-auto firearms, it violates the Second and Fourteenth Amendments to keep and bear arms because it bans the manufacture, sale and possession of a broad range of firearms in common use by the citizens of Massachusetts,” Keane said. “Unfortunately, Attorney General Healy’s unconstitutional action has left us no other option than to seek relief from the courts.”



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