Mimesis Law
15 December 2018

AG Maura Healey Is Now The Queen of Massachusetts

Sept. 16, 2016 (Fault Lines) – On Tuesday, Fault Lines contributor Josh Kendrick poked holes in Massachusetts AG Maura Healey’s attempt to hold gun manufacturers Glock and Remington “accountable,” supposedly for making defective guns. Here’s one of the bigger problems: despite her considerable budget, Healey found exactly zero instances of their guns malfunctioning.

In a response to a lawsuit filed by Glock, the best she could do was give three examples of people, none of whom live in Massachusetts, pulling the trigger of a Glock and making a bullet come out when they were too dumb, drunk or three years old to know what they were doing. Short of manufacturing psychic guns, it’s hard to see what Glock could do to keep a cop from pointing a Glock at another cop, thinking it’s unloaded, and pulling the trigger.*

Healey’s witch hunt is probably politically motivated. One, she’s a Democrat who campaigned on a gun-control platform. Two, she’ll be up for reelection in 2018. And three, her attempt to hurt gun manufacturers’ business is flimsily disguised as a consumer protection measure. It’s hard to claim you’re just interested in keeping consumers safe when the companies you’re targeting don’t sell in your state, except to the government.

Just two years into her first term, Healey’s assault on gunmakers is already part of a long and embarrassing tradition of using her office as a bully pulpit for liberal causes. For instance, Healey, along with New York’s Eric Schneiderman, California’s Kamala Harris and the Virgin Islands’ Claude Walker, was one of four state attorneys general to announce an investigation into ExxonMobil in March.

At a press conference called “AGs United For Clean Power,” Healey and her compatriots alleged that fossil fuel companies may have committed securities fraud by “misle[ading] investors and the public on the impact of climate change on their businesses.” In April, Healey opened a formal investigation – again in the guise of consumer protection – and hit Exxon with a civil investigative demand, a form of subpoena, for records going back forty years.

In June, Exxon sued in federal and state court to block it, claiming that it couldn’t have violated Massachusetts’ consumer-protection statute within its four-year limitations period and that Healey’s office lacked jurisdiction. Exxon, which, to be clear, has been publishing reports on climate change for decades, but without coming to the conclusion certain AGs prefer, also argued that her investigation was politically motivated, accusing her of trying to keep it from challenging her favored narrative in violation of the company’s First Amendment rights.

In a June letter, thirteen AGs from mostly conservative states – nine of whom joined in an amicus brief on Exxon’s behalf – pointed out the hypocrisy of investigating people for fraud if they doubt climate change but not when they exaggerate its impact, highlighted Healey’s ties to climate change activists and warned that the First Amendment doesn’t look kindly on using subpoenas to interfere in a public debate. Healey has since herself been subpoenaed by Lamar Smith, the chairman of the House Science Committee. She’s flatly refused to comply.

Then she tripled down on the overreach when, in July, she unilaterally redefined what guns are legal to sell and own in her state. Massachusetts has its own version of an assault weapons ban; it’s a copy of the federal AWB that expired in 2004, and it gets its definition of “assault weapon” directly from that law. However, while it also bans “copies and duplicates” of assault weapons, it doesn’t bother to define those terms.

There was an opportunity here, and on July 20, one month after the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Boston Globe published an op-ed where Healey announced she was going to close the “copycat loophole.” This she did, by releasing an “Enforcement Notice” where she pulls her own definition out of thin air.

In Healeyland, a gun is a banned “copycat assault weapon” if it meets one or both of two tests: having “internal functional components […] substantially similar in construction and configuration” to those of an assault weapon on a special list, or having a receiver that “includes or accepts” at least two parts that a listed assault weapon’s receiver would also “include or accept.”

A lot of people pointed out that Healey’s definition would outlaw thousands and thousands of guns nobody had previously thought questionable, including much of the output of Smith & Wesson, Massachusetts’ best-known gun company. Even the governor, himself a supporter of gun control, and his underlings sent Healey letters questioning her decision to ban everything under the sun. In response, Healey released “clarification” for her arbitrary, made-up ban where she lists guns she won’t prosecute people over. Needless to say, this edict is as lawless as the last one.

The kicker is that Healey’s list of exempt guns changes on a day-to-day basis. An alert Fault Lines reader sent this before-and-after screenshot: one day, all .22 caliber rifles were kosher. The next, .22 centerfire rifles were assault weapons. And as of today, even .17 caliber centerfires, varmint rifles, are assault weapons. Why? Not because of any statutory authorization, but because Healey said so.

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It’s trendy for executive agencies to do as they please; just look at the way DoE orders colleges to police allegations of campus sexual assault, or DoE’s and DoJ’s decision to expand “sex” discrimination under Titles VII and IX to cover gender identity. Getting permission from the legislature is for losers, and Healey, first-term AG though she may be, is clearly determined not to be a loser.

But it seems Healey’s become so enamored of her power that she’s forgotten its limitations. In addition to depriving Bay Staters of their rights, her open contempt for the First and Second Amendments means Massachusetts taxpayers have an expensive cross to bear in their attorney general. It might be time for cooler heads to prevail, before Healey decides to remake more of the law in her image.

*But if anyone does figure it out, they’re invited to contact the Punta Gorda Police Department.

8 Comments on this post.

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  • Richard G. Kopf
    16 September 2016 at 4:09 pm - Reply

    David,

    Great post on an important subject–the use of law enforcement for political purposes. While the crazies with their black helicopters are still crazy, the lawless behavior that you describe from a State’s Attorney General only fuels such paranoia.

    The .22 example you give is a perfect illustration. I suspect that the original exclusion without the “rimfire” limitation was not intentional but a function of stupidity. Speaking of dumb, a Marlin® Model 60 .22 LR Semiautomatic Rimfire Rifle does not use a plugin magazine but rather a tubular magazine that holds 14 rounds. The typical rate of fire is less than 2 seconds per shot. Yet because it is a rimfire .22 without a detachable magazine the weapon is exempt. If one doubts the lethality of .22 caliber weapons they do so at their peril, or at least that is what I have been told.*

    All the best.

    RGK
    *My single shot bolt action .22 rifle with a tubular magazine holding 10 (or more rounds) and firing high-velocity shorts easily kills Mr. and Mrs. Bunny. The bullet often goes straight through and out the other side of the critters. Now to be clear, I like clowns but not bunnies cause bunnies eat Joan’s flowers and clowns keep the damn children off my lawn.

    • David Meyer Lindenberg
      16 September 2016 at 5:26 pm - Reply

      Your Honor,

      Thank you very much! What do you say we go hunting when I make it out of Germany? We could wear clown costumes.

      • CLS
        16 September 2016 at 5:28 pm - Reply

        This needs to be filmed for reality television. I smell money.

      • Richard G. Kopf
        17 September 2016 at 11:17 am - Reply

        David,

        Clowns and camo. You’re brilliant.

        By the way, All the best.

        RGK

    • losingtrader
      18 September 2016 at 8:50 pm - Reply

      RGK said, “…. lawless behavior that you describe from a State’s Attorney General only fuels such paranoia….”

      I don’t know, it seemed to work pretty well for Richard Blumenthal, but of course he chose better issues for his lawless behavior as CT AG.

  • DaveL
    16 September 2016 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    NJ is miles ahead of MA in that regard.

    Sure, they criminalized a man for owning a varmint gun he won at a police event and never fired, but the important thing is that virtue was signaled, out-groups were demonized, and feelings were vindicated.

    • David Meyer Lindenberg
      16 September 2016 at 5:28 pm - Reply
  • December 14 roundup – Overlawyered
    14 December 2016 at 6:30 am - Reply

    […] Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, lately seen in this space using subpoena power to go after political adversaries who hadn’t taken a dime from ExxonMobil, also known for curious assault on gunmakers [David Meyer Lindenberg, Fault Lines] […]