^ as if Governor Baker didn’t have enough to do, he has been forced to referee the Attorney General’s new weapons regulation.

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There has been much brou haha about Attorney General Maura Healey’s new regulation respecting weapons illegal in Massachusetts. Inevitably Governor baker has been asked to opine about the matter. This has led to accusations seeking partisan advantage in an issue that should be the essence of public safety. One such accusation is that Baker has changed his position on the matter — has “backtracked” from supporting the regulation, as he seemed to do in his first statement. Let us see if there’s any leg in this accusation.

Here’s how Governor Baker has addressed AG Maura Healey’s new assault-weapon regulation :

Six days ago he said this —-

“Baker appeared to largely support Healey’s decision, although he said Healey should make available a list of which guns are banned. “The big issue in the short term is going to be the confusion around which weapons this applies to and which weapons it doesn’t apply to,” Baker said. “And my hope is at some point there’s going to be a list, and people will know of which ones are on and which ones are off.”

More broadly, Baker said Healey has the authority to decide which weapons are considered assault weapons under Massachusetts state law. “If people are in fact selling weapons that violate the Massachusetts assault weapons ban, then that should be dealt with and people should do something about it.”

Yesterday he was reported to be saying this —

“Governor Charlie Baker is asking Attorney General Maura Healey to provide more information on the new gun rules.

Last week, Healey called for eliminating the sales of so-called copycat weapons, which have been altered to get past the state’s assault weapon ban.

The governor says the notice needs to be clarified in order to protect responsible gun owners.”

Is there is a difference in these two statements by Baker ? A “backtracking,” as some partisan Democrats have claimed ? I do not see one. As I read it, The Governor’s position isthe same : the Attorney General has the authority and the jurisdiction — but clarification is in order.

I fully support the purpose of the new regulation : to get control of copycat weapons that may, by leaving off one part or another, slither through a regulatory loophole. I agree, too, that her purpose works from existing law and does not require new legislation. Still, the consequences of the regulation for gun dealers and for those who own weapons legal when bought but now illegal are not simple. In particular, what happens to gun dealer inventory that now cannot legally be sold ? Thus I agree that Healey needs to clarify her regulation.

Making progress on weapons regulation is a tricky business. Backing off from the armed vigilantism that has almost captured the entire nation, even though 80 to 90 percent of us oppose it, means actual changes for actual people. It wasn’t easy to defeat cigarettes. It took decades to do so. It will surely take even longer to get the tic of gun addiction out of people’s necks. Those who favor unregulated weapons everywhere may amount to barely ten percent of the people, but that ten percent are passionately organized and ready to  intimidate anyone who threatens their outlawry . Their opposition can only be pushed back one tiny, tiny step at a time. Healey may well have acted a bit too brusquely. She may well find that the Governor’s caution helps her, and so helps us — and helps the cause of weapons regulation.


—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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