Mass. AG Campbell launches gun violence prevention unit

A gun violence prevention unit Attorney General Andrea Campbell announced Thursday will focus on enforcing the state’s gun and consumer protection laws while working to ensure Massachusetts has the “most comprehensive” gun laws on the books.

Campbell appointed Christine Doktor, a former managing attorney at the gun safety group Everytown Law, to lead the unit and Ryan Mingo, former chief of the Major Felony Bureau at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, to serve as second-in-command of the office.

“As senseless acts of gun violence continue to terrorize and harm children, families, and communities in Massachusetts and across the country, we must step up and ensure that each one of us has the right to live free from gun violence,” Campbell said in a statement. “Our Gun Violence Prevention Unit will lead the way in holding accountable bad actors in the gun industry and others who violate our gun laws, while respecting the rights of responsible gun owners.”

The unit’s creation comes only weeks after a lone gunman opened fire at a bowling alley and pub in Lewiston, Maine, killing 18 and injuring 13 others.

The mass shooting in New England occurred as gun violence has plagued communities in Massachusetts this year, including a shooting at Worcester State University that left one dead, an alleged murder at Salem State University, and a brazen Dorchester shooting in August that left eight people injured.

Lawmakers on Beacon Hill are in the process of debating gun reform, with the House passing legislation last month that would tackle firearms licensing and the regulation of ghost guns.

The Senate is crafting its own gun reform bill, with Senate President Karen Spilka saying earlier this year that Gov. Maura Healey could have a bill on her desk before the two-year session is over.

Campbell said the unit will push the Massachusetts Legislature to pass a bill filed by Sen. Michael Moore, a Worcester-area Democrat, that would address the law prohibiting the purchase, possession, and use of silencers by amending the definition of a silencer to mirror the federal description.

“The (unit) will also promote legislative solutions to tackle other critical gun safety issues, like the proliferation of ghost guns, background check loopholes, the increasing prevalence of assault weapons, and other practical means to reduce gun violence in Massachusetts communities,” Campbell’s office said in a statement.

Members of Campbell’s Gun Violence Prevention Unit will support community-based and law enforcement violence prevention efforts by providing training and technical assistance on gun law compliance and “exploring potential grant programs,” the Attorney General’s Office said.

“The unit will enforce the state’s nation-leading commonsense gun laws, and will seek to hold bad actors accountable for misleading marketing practices as well as prosecuting illegal trafficking and straw sales that enable bad actors in the gun industry to profit from gun violence and harm in our communities,” Campbell’s office said in a statement.

Doktor said the unit’s mission is “deeply critical” during a time of increased gun violence.

“Despite having some of the strongest gun safety laws in the country and the lowest rate of gun violence in America, over 800 adults and children are shot and wounded or killed in Massachusetts on average each year,” Doktor said in a statement.

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