Mass. AG Andrea Campbell launches new gun violence prevention unit

Reforms to Massachusetts’ gun laws might be on hold on Beacon Hill, but state Attorney General Andrea J. Campbell isn’t waiting for lawmakers to act.

On Thursday, the Boston Democrat announced that her office had launched a new gun violence prevention unit aimed at “holding accountable bad actors in the gun industry and others who violate our gun laws.”

In a statement, Campbell also announced that she’d tapped two veterans in the fight against gun violence to lead the new office, each of whom bring the “passion and expertise” that will allow the state to “lead the nation on gun safety and gun violence prevention.”

The office’s new director, Christine Doktor, most recently served as the managing attorney for Everytown Law, the legal arm of the gun violence reduction organization, Everytown for Gun Safety.

In a statement, Campbell described the legal group as “the largest and most experienced team of litigators in the nation dedicated to advancing gun safety in the courts and through the civil and criminal justice systems.”

Doktor, a Bay State native, is a graduate of Columbia University Law School, and started her legal career as a civil litigator at the New York City-based mega-firm Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP. She’ll be based in the Attorney General’s Springfield Regional Office.

“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 the statement, adding that she’s looking forward to “[leveraging] my expertise, and [implementing] ... Campbell’s commitment to the life-saving work of reducing gun deaths and shootings here in my home state.”

The office’s new deputy director, Ryan Mingo, most recently ran the Major Felony Bureau at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, where he focused on violent and gang-related offenses, Campbell’s office said in its statement.

The new office will be charged with [leveraging] “existing tools of the AG’s Office such as civil and criminal enforcement, legislative advocacy, and community engagement to bolster gun violence prevention measures and protect the public,” Campbell’s office said in its statement.

Its formation comes as state lawmakers try to reach agreement on a suite of reforms to the Bay State’s gun violence reduction laws, already among the most restrictive in the nation.

Last month, the majority-Democrat state House overwhelmingly approved legislation that, among other things, seeks to curb the availability of so-called “ghost guns,” while expanding the state’s existing assault weapons ban.

The state Senate, also controlled by Democrats, is expected to unveil its version of the bill early next year, according to a top leader. House Speaker Ron Mariano, D-3rd Norfolk, has said he wants to get a bill on Gov. Maura Healey’s desk by the end of the current, two-year legislative session.

In her office’s statement, Campbell stressed the urgency of action, pointing out that, in an average year, 255 people die and 557 are wounded by guns in Massachusetts. The violence in the Bay State also “disproportionately impacts Black youth who are more than 8 times as likely to die by gun violence than their white peers,” Campell’s office said.

“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.

The office also will promote legislative solutions, including a bill sponsored by state Sen. Michael Moore, D-2nd Worcester, aimed at strengthening current state law banning the purchase, possession, and use of gun silencers. The proposal, which has Campbell’s backing, would bring state law into alignment with existing federal law governing the device.

Activists welcomed the new unit’s creation.

“We’ve reduced the rate of gun deaths in the Commonwealth by 40 percent since 1994 and urban Massachusetts continually has the lowest gun death rate in the United States,” John Rosenthal, the founder and chairperson of the Beverly, Mass.-based advocacy group, Stop Handgun Violence, said in the statement.

“Although we have the most effective gun laws and first in the nation gun industry consumer protection regulations, there is still far too much preventable gun violence,” Rosenthal said.