CEO’s Corner: July/August 2016

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_IIIIn 2015, the number of mass shootings in the United States outnumbered the days in the year – not to mention the hundreds of people injured each day from gun violence. From Baton Rouge and Orlando to Newtown and Virginia Tech, the carnage and innocent lives lost in mass shootings have become an all too frequent part of the national news cycle.

As a result, the question of how to stop the spread of preventable gun violence has once again emerged as a top policy issue. Despite a 25-hour sit-in by House Democrats, a 15-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats, and a bipartisan compromise proposal in the Senate, Congress has been unable to enact any legislation to increase gun safety. In the midst of this void, some states are taking steps to try and stem the wave of gun violence that claims the lives of more than 33,000 Americans every year.

Here in Massachusetts, Attorney General Maura Healey announced a new effort to enforce the Commonwealth’s ban on assault weapons. This July, she sent a directive to gun makers in Massachusetts ceasing the sales of “copycat” or “duplicate” assault rifles. The Commonwealth is one of just seven states and the District of Columbia that bans the sale of high-powered assault rifles like those used in recent mass shootings. And enforcement of these bans works too – the rate of gun fatalities in Massachusetts is one of the lowest in the country.

Unfortunately, gun manufacturers have been circumventing Massachusetts law by making and marketing copycat assault weapons to Commonwealth buyers under the label “state compliant.” The Attorney General’s office estimates that about 10,000 copycat assault rifles were sold in the Commonwealth in 2015 alone. While this commonsense directive is not a new law, it closes a critical loophole that gun manufacturers have exploited for over a decade.

Attorney General Healey’s courageous and reasonable approach on gun control has had a ripple effect nationally. She has earned support from Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the entire Massachusetts delegation, 5 former Massachusetts Attorneys Generals, many Commonwealth mayors, law enforcement, and a whole host of public health and community leaders, among countless others. She has also won praise from assault weapon opponents, who are desperately seeking ways to stop the spread of these weapons.

However, Attorney General Healey has also – predictably – been the subject of hysterical attacks from the gun lobby and second amendment activists, many of which don’t even live in Massachusetts. A quick Google search shows how the National Rifle Association and others are leveraging Attorney General Healey’s enforcement effort to raise money, while also personally attacking her with language so offensive and reprehensible that it is unfit to print or repeat.

Rather than contributing solutions to help prevent gun violence, this vocal minority has been hurling personal attacks in an attempt to mislead the public about what the directive does and does not do. Attorney General Healey deserves credit for her courage and willingness to truly enforce the laws that protect our citizens and ultimately save lives. That spirit and commitment is especially important in this current climate and election cycle.