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Candidates for attorney general spar in first debate

October 3, 2018

BOSTON (AP) — Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey and her Republican challenger Jay McMahon sparred on everything from gun rights and the state’s transgender rights law to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh during their first debate.

One of many areas where the two differ is on gun laws.

McMahon, an attorney from Cape Cod, faulted Healey for her 2016 notice to gun sellers and manufacturers of a crackdown on “copy” or “duplicate” assault weapons.

“She actually signed an edict if you will, a decree in which she declared whole categories of guns illegal to possess,” McMahon said during the debate Wednesday on WGBH.

McMahon also said he doesn’t support a state ban on “bump stocks” — designed to make semi-automatic rifles mimic the firing action of fully automatic weapons — or another law allowing for the temporary removal of firearms from people considered a danger to themselves or others.

Healey said she was just enforcing the state’s existing assault weapons ban.

“When I learned that in 2015, 10,000 assault rifles were sold in Massachusetts in violation of the law, I did my job as attorney general and I sent notice and made clear that we would enforce the law,” Healey said. “Since that happened, sales of those weapons have ended here.”

The two also took opposing sides on the state’s 2016 transgender rights law, which is up for repeal on the November ballot. The law in part guarantees transgender people can use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identities in Massachusetts.

Healey opposes repealing the law.

“The right of a person to use a place of public accommodation — to get on a bus, to go to a restaurant, to go to the movies and not be refused service because of gender identity is an important law we need to keep in place,” Healey said.

McMahon said he opposes the law because it doesn’t include enough protections against those who might use it to gain access to bathrooms or locker rooms for illicit purposes.

“It doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t protect women from sexual predators,” he said. “It’s not the transgenders that we’re concerned about, it’s the men who are using it and are claiming to be transgender.”

Healey said her office has yet to find any instance of somebody claiming the protections under the law to commit a crime. She said transgender people are typically the victims of violence.

McMahon also said that Healey hasn’t been tough enough on drug dealers, pointing to the state’s ongoing opioid addiction crisis.

“We have to put them in jail or drive them out of state,” he said. “We are fighting a war here.”

Healey defended her office’s effort to go after those dealing drugs, but noted that she’s also sued pharmaceutical companies and pushed for addiction prevention efforts in schools. Earlier this year, Healey sued Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, alleging the Connecticut company downplayed the prescription painkiller’s risks. The company vigorously denies the allegation.

The two also split on Kavanaugh.

“To me it’s not a matter of policy or which way his judicial leanings go. I think what we saw last week in a really stark display was the lack of decorum, the lack of temperament that is really required for the highest justice in the land,” Healey said. “Donald Trump should nominate another person. Brett Kavanaugh should have packed his bags on his nomination already.”

McMahon said he wants to see the findings of an FBI report on Kavanaugh.

“I think we have to wait and see where the facts take us, although to be honest didn’t we hear from the very beginning that the Republicans were in favor of him and the Democrats were against him?” McMahon said. “I don’t know if any votes are going to change.”

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