Coakley unsure if Tolman’s gun lock plan has legal basis

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STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 25, 2014……Attorney General Martha Coakley is unsure whether her office has the authority to require fingerprint trigger locks on all new guns sold in Massachusetts, contradicting one of the candidates seeking to succeed her in office.

Warren Tolman, the frontrunner in the Democratic primary, has said the AG’s consumer protection authority grants it the power to require such technology on new guns and said the consumer protection statute has been used to regulate guns in the past.

“It’s time we use the power of this law to protect the health and safety of our citizens to do what Congress can’t – require gun manufacturers to utilize existing personalized gun technology for all new weapons sold in the Commonwealth,” Tolman said in a December statement announcing his proposal.

Maura Healey, a former bureau chief for Coakley in the AG’s office and the only other candidate in the Democratic primary, has disputed Tolman’s position saying, “I don’t see the authority for that within the office.”

Coakley, who is finishing out her eighth year in the state’s highest law enforcement office and running for governor, said she was not sure of the specific law that would enable the top law enforcement office to require fingerprint locks.

“I’m not familiar with the specifics of what candidate Tolman is talking about,” Coakley told the News Service Tuesday. She said, “The broad premise is that you can’t engage in a business practice – including selling a product that’s unfair or unsafe. That’s the basis of our regulatory authority. Other than that I’d have to look at specific proposals to see what the extent of an AG’s authority would be in that area.”

Asked through an aide whether he believes the AG has the authority to require fingerprint locks, Republican nominee for attorney general John Miller said the AG’s job is not to “bypass” the law or state constitution.

“The role of the Attorney General is to enforce the state’s constitution and the laws passed and enacted by the Legislature and Governor. It is not the role of the Attorney General to bypass either,” Miller said in a statement.

Scott Harshbarger, the former attorney general who has endorsed Tolman, has said the law allows the AG to regulate new guns.

“His plan to mandate requiring fingerprint trigger locks on all new firearms sold in the Commonwealth is the perfect example of his vision and his proactive leadership,” Harshbarger said in a March 11 statement. “During my time in office, I used the Attorney General’s consumer protection authority to implement new gun safety requirements including load indicators, magazine safety disconnect, and childproofing safety features.”

Copyright 2014 State House News Service

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