Ten candidates responded to the question: “How will you approach the issue of gun violence in our communities?”
I am a strong advocate of gun control and if elected, I would continue and expand the efforts Mayor Thomas Menino has already initiated to reduce gun violence in our communities. Key to this effort will be working with other elected officials, the Boston Police Department, the Boston Public Health Commission and Boston Center for Youth and Families to ensure that we have positive opportunities for our youth in the city.
I would be a strong national voice for gun control and invest in the investigative capacity of BPD to solve gun related crime. I would create a Community Response Authority that merges the work of public and non-profit human service agencies, public health agencies, law enforcement and community leaders to improve crime prevention and provide neighborhoods with the coordinated support they need to deal with gun violence and increase safety.
As District Attorney I created a Gun Court that cut the time it takes to prosecute gun cases in half, while increasing the conviction rate for those who come before that court to 90%. I was also the author of a landmark Anti-Gang and Witness Intimidation bill that increased penalties for all manner of gun and gang related offense, created the state’s first Witness Protection Program and established the Shannon Grants.
I have also invested heavily in early intervention and prevention strategies to keep young people from crossing these lines in the first place. I presently have legislation pending that I filed with State Representative Russell Holmes of Mattapan that focuses laser-like on illegal handguns which are used in the overwhelming majority of the violence that occurs in Boston. Among the more than two dozen improvements this bill would make to our gun laws are: mandate micro-stamping on all guns to make it easier for police to trace crime guns back to their owners; close loopholes that allow too many guns to find their way onto the street from the “secondary gun market”; and require insurance coverage for gun owners to cover the cost of injuries and other damages caused by their weapon, except in cases of self-defense.
Additionally, I have advocated for the deployment of publicly owned and operated closed circuit television cameras at major public events and in neighborhood hot spots for the purpose of deterring and solving the most serious violent crimes. Finally, I will continue to urge the updating of Massachusetts wiretap laws, which have not been changed since they were first enacted in the 1960’s. Importantly, the legislation maintains the same rigorous process to obtain the court’s permission to undertake a wiretap. It only updates the law to reflect modern technologies and the modern organized crime model, which is youth gangs organized around everything from guns to drugs to human trafficking.
Every Bostonian deserves to live in a safe and healthy neighborhood. I will work with all stakeholders to develop and implement a comprehensive plan aimed at better connecting our public safety resources with our public health and housing resources in order to end violence and health disparities and to break cycles of poverty. I will ensure that Boston Police have the resources and mandate to engage in genuine community policing by connecting with youth workers, clergy, community organizers, and the general public.
We can also build trust between the police and the communities they serve by recruiting new officers from every neighborhood, so that our police force truly reflects the city. I will appoint a liaison for reentry services that will work with all city departments to coordinate programs for offenders returning to our communities.
Access to education, employment training and jobs, and mental health and substance abuse services can help offenders to create stable lives off the streets. I will work with our private employers, city agencies, and non-profits to expand our youth summer job opportunities into year-round programs. I will ensure that all city departments are communicating and coordinating services for families with high needs. When a family struggles with poverty, housing insecurity, addiction, or lack of access to quality education, the impact is felt across generations. By coordinating support services, our city can stop that cycle.
I will work with parents to ensure that their children stay in school. In 2008, I sponsored parental accountability truancy legislation aimed at helping chronically absent students. Truancy is a warning sign for dropping out and criminal activity, so parents and school leaders must be partners in getting children and teens to school. Once students are in the classroom, we must provide them with an education that is engaging and relevant, so that they can envision a bright future, and we also need to provide them with fully-staffed social and emotional support services and conflict resolution programs.
I have been working on the issue of gun violence for many years. We have to first work as hard as we can to get guns off the streets. As mayor, I will continue to work with mayors across the nation and our congressional delegation to strengthen our gun laws. Next I will apply any and all new technology to the issue. For example I proposed and led the fight to install the ShotSpotter gunshot detection system that helps police get to the scene of a shooting within minutes – dropping response time from six minutes before ShotSpotter to one minute now.
Further, I have proposed all that guns be installed with a tracking system similar to a GPS system that can track guns that have been stolen and sold to criminals and that can be traced after a shooting. I have also proposed a Felony Gun Registry, similar to a sex offender registry, so that communities can know where the dangerous felons are. It’s only fair that we know who owns guns on our streets that have been used unlawfully. Finally we must be persistent in attacking the scourge of gun violence. It cannot be a one -time thing. We must attack public safety and gun violence by addressing intervention, prevention, enforcement and technology.
We are a nation that reveres guns and I’ll join the ranks of mayors who are trying to change that. For example, I support in large measure the National League of Cities policy for reducing gun violence, with the exception of mandatory sentencing and data sharing elements. Even in Massachusetts where we have implemented gun control measures, easy access to guns in other states ensures that illegal firearms are readily available in Boston’s neighborhoods.
The increase in shootings this year alone is front and center on the minds of Boston residents. One way I will address this issue is to work closely with Federal and State officials, in order to (1) stem the flow of guns onto our streets; and (2) access federal resources for dealing with crimes that are gun related, while supporting the establishment of alternative programs for first-time offenders.
In addition, and perhaps most important, I would seek to increase investment in programs and policies that will prevent gun violence from occurring in the first place. These are tools that worked when violent crime exploded in Boston in the early 90’s and are being used in other municipalities today as a result of success shown here. Boston is already working with the Office of Juvenile Justice programs, Safe Neighborhoods programs and more around these issues. Guns and violence are also a public health matter that requires coordination of services to individuals and families. Sustaining the long term work must begin with a return to having a fully engaged community that will work with law enforcement and with groups like Citizens for Safety, Louis D. Brown Peace Initiative, Ten-point Coalition and the many neighborhood associations across the city. Together we can design and implement a strategy that would include school and after-school based intervention/prevention programs, enhanced probation services for those who are court involved, gang intervention programs, and mental health services for Boston families.
As chair of City Council’s public safety committee, I’ve worked with police and neighborhood activists and teachers and parents across this city, and I believe that we will rid our schools, our streets and our communities of violence more through the force of ideas than through the idea of force. We need fewer guns on the streets.
We need to look at the root causes of where violence begins in children’s lives, not simply punishing offenses and catching offenders after we’ve let youth flounder in our systems. We need an active and engaged community that watches out for each other and helps the police and other authorities to maintain social norms and the rule of law. We need police who are a constant and welcome presence in every community, because they reflect the communities in which they live and work.
Most of all, we must recognize that in combating and reducing youth violence, the opposite of violence is not peace – it’s opportunity. If we’re truly going to reduce youth violence in the long term, we need to provide all of our young people with options and opportunities to succeed in our city. That’s where my approach starts starts. You can read my comprehensive public safety plan at www.MikeforBoston.com.
There is a long term and a short term approach. The short term approach is to reassemble the partnership that worked in the 1990s, bringing together police and other law enforcement representatives with representatives from schools, churches, human service, health care and other nonprofit organizations, to identify families in crisis and do crisis intervention, helping families in crisis avoid crime.
The long term solution is through providing opportunity and hope to our children. A better education with opportunity for having a career will lead to a more hopeful group of young adults. Hope for the future will instill in them a sense of purpose and motivation to achieve great things instead of resorting to violence which is often times the result of lack of hope for the future.
Collaboration is the key. Here in Boston, the majority of gun violence homicides are done by youth who are involved in gangs. To address that, Boston — like other cities — has had the greatest success with a collaborative approach that involves close monitoring and services by connecting police departments, community groups, and multiple other agencies that serve and monitor youth involved in violent crime. As mayor I will work to further support and perfect this model. In fact, I have vowed to convene a discussion on how to best approach gang violence in Boston on my first day as mayor.
Recognizing that many of the guns on Boston’s streets come from bordering states like New Hampshire and Maine, I will also be a strong advocate for better gun laws and stepped-up enforcement efforts against illegal gun trafficking.
Solving past homicides, gun buyback programs, hire outreach workers, increased community policing
Click here for Part I of our series on the Mayoral Candidates, in which four candidates answered a series of questions about gun violence.