Gun Rights Activists and Industry Representatives Continue to Challenge the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Gun Control Efforts

In the latest development in the ongoing dispute between Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, on the one hand, and gun manufacturers, distributors and gun rights advocates on the other, the Gun Owners’ Action League, Inc. (GOAL) and others filed suit last week challenging the constitutionality of both the Commonwealth’s assault weapons ban, which was first passed in 1998, and the AG’s July 20, 2016 Enforcement Notice, which sets out two tests for determining what qualifies as a prohibited copy or duplicate of an assault weapon under that law.  The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts by five state residents and two gun retailers in addition to GOAL, names the AG, Governor Charlie Baker, the state Secretary of Public Safety and Security, the Superintendent of the State Police, and the Massachusetts State Police as defendants.  It seeks declarations that the sections of M.G.L. c. 140 defining and banning assault weapons, along with the AG’s Enforcement Notice, are unconstitutional, and an injunction prohibiting their enforcement.

Last September, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc. and four gun retailers also sued the AG in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, asserting that her Enforcement Notice violates the U.S. Constitution and pursuing an injunction.  Hearing on the AG’s motion to dismiss that suit, which does not contest the constitutionality of the underlying assault weapons ban, is set for April.

As we discussed in a previous post, the AG was also sued in separate state court lawsuits brought last summer by gun manufacturers Glock, Inc., and Remington Arms Company, LLC, who argue that Healey’s pursuit of her investigation into potential gun-safety issues exceeds her authority under the law.  Both companies object to the scope of civil investigative demands (CIDs) issued to them by the AG seeking, among other things, information regarding safety-related consumer complaints.  A Superior Court judge denied Glock’s motion to set aside the Glock CID last November, finding that “the Attorney General has good and sufficient grounds to issue the CID based on safety and other concerns about Glock pistols owned throughout the Commonwealth.”  However, the questions of whether the scope of the Glock CID or the Remington CID should be limited are still before the Superior Court.

The suit filed last week by GOAL resolved, at least temporarily, another related clash with the AG’s office.  Last August, the organization filed a public records request seeking documents related to the July Enforcement Notice.  The AG’s office provided documents in response to the request last December, but withheld certain potentially responsive documents pursuant to exemptions established by the Massachusetts Public Records Law.  GOAL filed an appeal to the Supervisor of Records in the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth on January 6, 2017, arguing that “the AG has both misconstrued GOAL’s requests and have [sic] taken an inappropriately broad view of any potential exemptions to the Public Records Law.” In her written decision, issued the same day GOAL’s federal suit was filed, the Supervisor “decline[d] to opine on” GOAL’s appeal, citing 950 CMR 32.08(2)(b), which allows the Supervisor to deny an appeal if the public records in question are the subjects of disputes in active litigation.

We will continue to provide updates on the developments in these matters.

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