BOSTON (AP) — Nearly two decades ago, then-Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci signed an assault weapons ban in Massachusetts as part of what he called one of the nation’s toughest gun laws.

The ban now is at the center of a fierce public debate sparked by Attorney General Maura Healey’s decision to clamp down on the sale of what she calls copycat assault weapons.

Gun rights activists say the Democrat is overstepping her authority, but a former sponsor and others are backing her up.

Former Democratic Sen. Warren Tolman was a co-sponsor of the 1998 bill.

He says Healey is enforcing the legislation exactly how it was intended.

Former Democratic Attorney General Scott Harshbarger was in office when the law took effect. He also rejects the criticism Healey is getting for her decision.

(Copyright (c) 2023 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox