politics

Healey: Federal Law Should Not ‘Shield' Gun Manufacturers

Leading a team of prosecutors, the Massachusetts Attorney General is challenging interpretations of federal law that she believes are protecting gun manufacturers from accountability

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Returning to an issue that was at the center of her first campaign, Attorney General Maura Healey led a coalition of state prosecutors on Tuesday in the filing of a brief in U.S. District Court supporting Mexico in its consumer protection case against seven gun manufacturers and a Massachusetts-based gun distributor.

Healey led a group of 14 attorneys general in their argument that federal law does not shield gun manufacturers and dealers from consumer laws governing the marketing and sale firearms.

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The Mexican governor has alleged that Springfield-based Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms, Beretta, Century Arms, Colt, Glock, Ruger and Massachusetts-based distributor Interstate Arms designs, markets and distributes guns in a manner they know appeal to Mexican drug cartels and violent gangs. The attorney general said the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act should be "narrowly interpreted" so as not to "displace" traditional state regulation, including consumer protection laws.

The coalition said the PLCAA was meant only to bar lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers that seek to hold them liable for harms committed by third parties.

"It is unacceptable for gun manufacturers and distributors to knowingly market their products in a way that facilitates the illegal trafficking of weapons into the hands of dangerous individuals," Healey said in a statement. "We urge the Court to recognize that gun dealers, manufacturers, and distributors may be held accountable under state laws for how they market and sell their products."

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Gun control became a major issue in Healey's first campaign for attorney general in 2014 when she and fellow Democratic candidate Warren Tolman clashed over whether the attorney general had the authority under the state's consumer protection laws to require fingerprint trigger lock technology on guns sold in Massachusetts. Healey argued the Legislature would need to pass a law to give the attorney general's office the power to require the technology, and argued for a broader approach to gun control that included tracing all guns used in crimes committed in Massachusetts, requiring all private gun sales to be conducted through a registered gun dealer and the closure what she described as a loophole that allowed guns to enter the state untraced through gun shows and private sales.

Smith & Wesson recently announced last fall that it planned to relocate its headquarters and a large portion of its operations to Tennessee in 2023 after 169 years being based in Springfield. Corporate executives sited the "changing business climate" for firearm manufacturers in Massachusetts as a motivating factor.

Healey announced last month that she was running for governor in 2022.

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