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Massachusetts Treasurer Steve Grossman faced off against the state's gun lobby director in an informal debate Thursday meant to highlight what the Democratic candidate for governor says is the failure of a party primary opponent — Attorney General Martha Coakley — to embrace tougher gun control.
Grossman and Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts Executive Director Jim Wallace presented their views during the exchange on the steps of the State House, which was arranged by their respective groups. Coakley's campaign had indicated she wouldn't attend the event, and organizers placed a podium with her name on it between the podiums for Grossman and Wallace.
Grossman faulted Coakley for not supporting a proposal backed by Gov. Deval Patrick to limit gun buyers to the purchase of one firearm per month.
"Regrettably Martha Coakley doesn't get it. Martha Coakley disagrees and has been praised by Jim Wallace and the gun lobby," Grossman said. "Why does Martha Coakley take the NRA's position? I believe Martha Coakley has demonstrated a failure of leadership as the state's chief law enforcement officer."
However, Wallace was quick to criticize Coakley, saying she has largely ignored the National Rifle Association and the plight of lawful gun owners.
"Martha Coakley is being made to look like the darling of the NRA, and I think that's probably a little bit laughable," Wallace said. "I don't think we're here to praise Martha Coakley."
Coakley's campaign manager Tim Foley called the debate a "stunt." He said Coakley has prosecuted hundreds of dangerous criminals, including cases involving gun violence.
"Among other public safety measures, she has supported closing the gun show loophole, banning assault weapons, and background checks for gun purchases," Foley said in a statement.
In a debate on NECN-TV during her 2010 re-election campaign, Coakley said she was on the record opposing Patrick's one gun per month proposal.
Coakley's campaign said she was attending the funeral of Boston Police Officer Dennis Simmonds on Thursday.
Grossman said the timing of the debate could have been changed to allow Coakley to attend the funeral and still participate.
Grossman and Coakley are among the five Democrats seeking the state's chief executive post, as are two Republicans and three independents.
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