Policy

Maura Healey Targets ‘Ridiculous’ Gun Culture

First openly gay attorney general says civil rights should be on everyone’s agenda

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is a former basketball player, prosecutor and private attorney. (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for EMILY's List)

Maura Healey has one word to describe the gun lobby — ridiculous.

The Massachusetts attorney general says it’s “ridiculous” the National Rifle Association has so much control over gun rights debates. “Ridiculous” that Congress won’t allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study gun violence as a public health issue. And “ridiculous” that people who are a danger to themselves and others can get guns.

“This is a public health crisis in our country and we have a moral imperative to address this issue,” Healey said in an interview.

It’s no surprise, then, that she’s not popular with gun-rights advocates.

“She seems to be pushing the agenda of prior attorneys general, which is certainly not in favor of the civil rights of lawful gun owners,” said Jim Wallace, executive director for Gun Owners Action League, a group focused on gun rights in Massachusetts.

But gun control is the kind of issue that Healey says drew her into politics in the first place: “It’s just so important that if we’re really going to be the people’s law firm that we really are making sure that we have reached out to communities that have been traditionally underserved so that they know who we are and that we’re here to help them."

The captain of Harvard's women's basketball team, she then spent two years as a point guard for professional women’s basketball team in Austria and was a county prosecutor and a litigation partner at a Boston-area law firm before joining the attorney general's office as an assistant AG. Her run for the top job in 2014 was her first campaign.

Noting that Massachusetts’ gun sales doubled to 102,000 from 2006 to 2014, Healey’s office in December sent notices to 350 gun dealers warning them to prepare for checks on their paperwork to make sure their they weren’t selling guns illegally.

She has shown she’s comfortable working outside of traditional legal venues, turning to social media to promote the transgender anti-discrimination bill with an #EveryoneWelcome hashtag and by recruiting Caitlyn Jenner and other celebrities to back the measure in a YouTube video.

As the nation’s first openly gay attorney general, she said Massachusetts needs to catch up with the 17 other states protecting transgender people from discrimination in public places like restaurants and malls.

“[Being gay] doesn’t influence me but I am a person who believes civil rights should be on everybody’s agenda,” Healey said. “Ensuring we are a country where … the words equal treatment under the law actually means something -- I’m firmly committed to that.”

Regulations her office revealed in March for online fantasy sports sites, where fans can place bets and win cash prizes, were not warmly embraced by the industry, but they weren’t rejected outright either.

Healey’s predecessor as attorney general, fellow Democrat Martha Coakley, who has been an adviser to industry leader DraftKings, told the Boston Herald that the rules were “a very good set of tough consumer regulations,” and that while the industry doesn’t “agree with every regulation, they’ve already started to comply and they will comply.”

The rules, which take effect July 1, ban players under 21, separate beginner players from more experienced ones and place limits on bets.

Healey teamed up with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, to pass a bill addressing opioid addiction.

“It is very remarkable that she’s been willing along with the governor and others to remove the stigma that’s been attached to substance abuse disorders,” said Dennis Dimitri, president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, a statewide organization representing physicians.

An October Boston Globe profile called Healey “the one to watch in state politics in elections to come,” though she has ruled out a run for governor in 2018, when Baker is expected to seek re-election.

“I didn’t view this or see this as a stepping stone,” she told the Globe. “This is what I want to do. This is what I ran to do.”

Marissa Evans covers health care policy for the CQ State Report.

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