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GOP Sen. hopeful did legal work for gun groups

April 12, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Michael Sullivan — a critic of a bill to expand federal firearms background checks — has performed legal work for a Springfield gun maker and a Connecticut-based firearms trade association.

Sullivan, who works as a partner at the Ashcroft Law Firm, lists Smith & Wesson and the National Shooting Sports Foundation among clients who have paid him or the firm more than $5,000 for his legal services.

The groups are among more than a dozen listed by Sullivan on a financial disclosure form he recently filed as a Senate candidate.

An aide to Sullivan’s campaign said he’s never worked as a lobbyist.

“These are legal clients he has done work for on behalf of his firm, and obviously, as an attorney, he does not and cannot discuss the work he does for clients,” said Sullivan spokeswoman Alicia Preston.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation is located in Newtown, Conn., which was also the location of the Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six staffers in December.

The killings sparked a call for stricter gun laws and greater school security.

On Thursday, a compromise Senate bill that would subject more firearms buyers to federal background checks and toughen laws against illicit gun trafficking, cleared a key hurdle when the Senate defeated an effort by conservatives to derail it before debate could begin.

Asked during a candidate forum Wednesday night if he would support the Senate bill, Sullivan said it wouldn’t work.

“The issue is whether or not it really solves the problem — and the problem being keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and keeping guns out of the hands of adjudicated mentally ill — and it doesn’t,” Sullivan said, adding, “I’m not going to do something just because it feels good.”

Sullivan, who is also a former acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the law already prohibits people with serious mental illness from getting firearms. He said the problem is there’s no mechanism to share that information.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation also said it never hired Sullivan as a lobbyist.

“Mr. Sullivan has never been retained by NSSF to lobby on our behalf, either at the state or federal level. Mr. Sullivan has been retained specifically to provide legal counsel to NSSF and to engage in outreach to the law enforcement community,” the group said in a statement.

On its website the group — — which describes itself as a trade organization representing more than 7,000 manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers — warns that “severely restrictive gun-control legislation has been introduced throughout the country.”

“Call or write your federal and state legislators and urge them to protect your right to own and use the firearms of your choice for personal protection, target shooting and hunting,” the group said.

A phone call to Smith & Wesson wasn’t immediately returned.

On its website, Smith & Wesson said it employs more than 1,600 workers and urges customers to contact their elected officials to tell them to support Second Amendment rights.

“We support a comprehensive approach to preventing violence in our communities and a thorough evaluation of the challenges we face. However, like you, we do not support an erosion of fundamental rights in the process,” the company said.

Of the five Democratic and Republican candidates in the special Senate election, Sullivan is the harshest critic of the bill to expand firearms background check.

The other two Republicans in the race, Gabriel Gomez and Daniel Winslow, both said they would vote for the Senate bill.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, one of the two Democratic hopefuls, said he would vote for the bill. Fellow Democratic congressman and Senate candidate Edward Markey said the bill is an important first step, but he supports tougher measures like a ban on assault weapons.

The primaries are April 30. The election is June 25.

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