NEWTOWN, Conn. — The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts today denied Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s attempt to stay a federal lawsuit brought by four federally-licensed Bay State firearms retailers and the National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®). The lawsuit states that Healey in her 2016 “Enforcement Notice” redefining “assault weapons” had overstepped her legal authority and deprived the retailers of their due process protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
In 2018, a federal district court judge denied Healey’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit finding that the plaintiffs had asserted valid federal due process claims. In January 2019, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit dismissed Healey’s appeal of that decision, just hours after hearing oral argument.
The ruling today to deny a stay in this case, pending parallel litigation in a state court, is the third attempt by Attorney General Healey to stall a trial in federal court. “… the Enforcement Notice warrants constitutional review for vagueness without reaching the state law issue,” wrote District Judge Timothy S. Hillman. The parallel state court case filed by different retailers claims the enforcement notice is an invalid regulation that was improperly issued by the Attorney General in violation of the state’s administrative procedure act.
“The actions of Attorney General Healy in 2016 were unconstitutional, leaving firearms retailers in Massachusetts unable to determine the meaning or scope of the Enforcement Notice and subsequent explanations,” said NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence Keane. “Because criminal penalties can result due to her unilateral reinterpretation of a state statute done without administrative process or input from affected parties, her office exceeded its lawful authority and retailers were deprived of their due process protections under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.”
The retailers are Pullman Arms Inc. of Worcester; Guns and Gear, LLC of Agawam; Paper City Firearms of Holyoke; and Grrr Gear of Orange.
Representing NSSF and the retailers are the Boston-based law firm of Kenney and Sams, P.C., and Michael Sullivan of the Ashcroft Law Firm, who is a former United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts and former Acting Director, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of more than 12,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen's organizations and publishers. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.