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Steven Grossman criticizes Martha Coakley on gun control

Steven Grossman.

David L. Ryan/Globe staff/file 2011

Steven Grossman.

On the steps of the State House, under a bright sun, State Treasurer Steven Grossman stood in front of a lectern and expressed his strong support for a proposed gun control measure.

A few feet away, Jim Wallace, executive director of a state gun owners’ organization, argued that such a law would be unnecessary and unwise.

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Between the two: a vacant lectern labeled “Attorney General Martha Coakley.”

There was no Playbill or curtain call, but Grossman most definitely put on a two-man act of political theater Thursday afternoon, aimed at knocking Democratic gubernatorial rival Martha Coakley.

Grossman, who trails Coakley by a substantial margin in public polling, criticized her for having expressed opposition to a proposal repeatedly put forward by Governor Deval Patrick that would limit people to buying one gun per month.

“Martha Coakley doesn’t get it,” Grossman said in front of crowd of a few dozen supporters, members of the media and gun rights supporters.

“Why does Martha Coakley take the NRA’s position?” he asked, rhetorically, referring to the National Rifle Association. Grossman went on to say Coakley had demonstrated a “failure of leadership.”

The made-for-the-press event was the latest and most forward in Grossman’s attempts to question Coakley’s law enforcement chops, her area of expertise, and position himself to her left ahead of a September Democratic primary.

Grossman also criticized Coakley for not joining him at the event to explain why she did not support the gun control measure. Grossman argued it could reduce the occurrence of straw purchases — when a person illegally buys a gun or guns for someone else — and make the state safer.

A Coakley aide said she was at the funeral of a Boston police officer during Grossman’s media-friendly happening. But, the aide said, she would not have attended the event even if her schedule had been clear.

In a statement, Coakley campaign manager Tim Foley said the attorney general had worked her entire career to make Massachusetts safer. He noted her support for a variety of other gun control measures and said she had prosecuted dangerous criminals.

“Steve Grossman’s stunt today once again shows a lack of understanding of real public safety issues,” Foley added. “He continues to show a willingness to use these issues to try to score cheap political points.”

During the back and forth with Grossman, in front of the gleaming golden dome of the State House, Wallace argued that whole premise of the one-gun-a-month proposal was faulty.

Massachusetts gun statutes were already overly onerous for lawful citizens who wanted to buy firearms and there are already laws in place prohibiting straw purchasing, said Wallace, the executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League, an affiliate of the National Rifle Association.

Later, answering questions from the media, Wallace said the idea that Coakley was the darling of the NRA was “pretty laughable.”

Three other Democrats are also running for governor: biopharmaceutical company executive Joe Avellone, former homeland security official Juliette Kayyem, and Donald M. Berwick, a former administrator of Medicare and Medicaid.

Candidates who win 15 percent support at the state party convention in June and collect 10,000 signatures will face off in the Sept. 9 primary.

Also in the race to succeed Patrick: two Republicans, three independent candidates, and a Libertarian.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.
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