By Matt Robare/Wicked Local correspondent Wicked Local West Roxbury
Posted May 25, 2013 @ 05:00 PM
West Roxbury — A forum on reducing gun violence brought about 40 people – including mayoral candidates Rob Consalvo and Marty Walsh – to West Roxbury’s Temple Hillel B’nai Torah Sunday night. The event was organized by Advocates for Safe and Sound Gun Laws, a grassroots group based in West Roxbury, Roslindale, Dedham and Jamaica Plain. Nancy Robinson, executive director of Citizens for Safety, described Operation Lipstick, a program that works to get people to ask the question, “Where did the gun come from?” in violent incidents. Many guns used in crimes were acquired illegally or used by people for whom it would have already been illegal to own a gun, such as convicted felons. The group is also a member of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Like most of you, we were appalled by the unspeakable slaughter that took place at Sandy Hook,” said Suzanne Schlossberg, who helped organize the Advocates, her voice breaking with sadness as she spoke. “We are not experts, we do not have all the answers.”
“It’s almost mind-boggling, the scope of this problem,” said Angus McQuilken, a coalition and a board member of States United to Prevent Gun Violence.
According to McQuilken, there are deficiencies at every level of firearms regulation, including in Massachusetts, which has some of the strictest regulations in the country. He said that at the federal level, the biggest issue is that while guns sold in stores require background checks of the purchaser, guns sold at gun shows do not. Private transactions are also not regulated. He added that the assault weapons and high capacity magazine bans should be reinstated.
“We do have a woefully inadequate system of background checks for mental illness,” McQuilken said.
He said that Massachusetts should adopt the “Hawaii standard,” where applying for a gun license includes a waiver allowing police access to the applicant’s mental health records. In Massachusetts, according to McQuilken, local police chiefs are the licensing authorities and can exercise discretion using a suitability standard in issuing handgun licenses, but cannot deny applications for longer guns,
￼￼￼like rifles, unless something comes up in the criminal background checks.
Nancy Robinson, executive director of Citizens for Safety, described Operation Lipstick, a program that works to get people to ask the question, “Where did the gun come from?” in violent incidents. Many guns used in crimes were acquired illegally or used by people for whom it would have already been illegal to own a gun, such as convicted felons.
Sherry Flashman, another organizer of Advocates for Safe and Sound Gun Laws, said that CFS organized the first gun buyback programs in the country in Boston in the early ’90s.
“This is an epidemic, this is a scourge on all our communities,” Robinson said. “I went to the funeral of a grandmother and her grandson. The grandmother had a fatal heart attack when she heard that her grandson had been shot and killed.”
She said that gun traffickers pressure women to buy them guns from dealerships or stores in large quantities and played a video of a young woman talking about how two classmates persuaded her to buy guns for them. The guns were later used in crimes, resulting in the woman being prosecuted. In the video she said that the dealer should have thought it suspicious that she was buying guns in bulk without showing any interest in them.
“That story plays out in every mid-size and major city in the United States,” Robinson said. “You have an opportunity to make a difference on this issue of life and death,” McQuilken said.
He brought yellow postcards for attendees to fill out and send to their state representative and senator. The pre-written cards advocate universal background checks, a suitability standard for all gun licenses in Massachusetts, prohibition of high capacity magazine and assault weapons and stronger penalties for gun-related crimes.
“Aren’t we all tired of the legislative defeats?” Robinson said.
People in the audience nodded in agreement as Robinson and McQuilken spoke. When Robinson or McQuilken talked about Washington or organizations like the National Rife Association, anger was visible on some faces.
McQuilken said that the Massachusetts Legislature will begin public hearings about extending gun control laws in the summer, with a bill likely to be filed in September.
Robert DeLeo, speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, has appointed an eight-member task force to come up with recommendations.
Barbara Penzer, the rabbi of Temple Hillel B’nai Torah, talked about a statement on gun violence the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis put together following Sandy Hook. She said that in Leviticus, there’s a commandment which reads, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor,” which some rabbis interpreted as requiring a ban on selling weapons and the materials for making them.
“Whatever the antecedents of violence, we need to take away the tools of the explosion of violence,” Penzer said. “Even after the
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West Roxbury holds forum on gun violence – West Roxbury, MA – Wicked Local West Roxbury 5/27/13 9:20 AM
disastrous vote in Washington, we’re not done.”
The Advocates for Safe and Sensible Gun Laws are sponsoring another community forum on June 13 at the Unitarian Church in Eliot Street, Jamaica Plain.