TASK FORCE OUTLINES 44 RECOMMENDATIONS TO REDUCE GUN VIOLENCE

By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, FEB 3, 2014……All private firearms sales should be completed through a licensed dealer, live-fire training should be required for those seeking a license, and the state should comply in a limited capacity with the National Instant Background Check System, according to the long-awaited recommendations of a team of experts advising House Speaker Robert DeLeo on gun policy.

While concluding that Massachusetts “already has some of the strongest gun laws in the nation,” DeLeo’s Committee to Reduce Gun Violence offered 44 recommendations on Monday to reduce gun violence and gun suicide, to improve public safety, and to standardize gun licensure throughout the state.

“Virtually every gun begins as a legal gun, in the hands of someone who passed a background check,” the task force wrote in a 23-page report, noting that most gun owners handle their weapons lawfully, and suicide is the leading cause of gun deaths.

Some recommendations could be greeted warmly by gun rights supporters, while others could face opposition, as they might add burdens for specific gun sales.

“The Committee recognizes that changes such as those proposed in this report may be challenging, but if adopted, provides a pathway to further reduce gun violence in the Commonwealth,” the task force wrote in its conclusion.

The committee headed by Jack McDevitt, a criminal justice expert and dean at Northeastern University, recommended no changes to the restriction limiting large-capacity magazines to 10 rounds.

Many gun owners, including Rep. George Peterson, a Grafton Republican, have experienced long delays in their re-licensing, a problem that spurred the committee to recommend gun licenses remain valid until they are re-approved or denied by the state.

The committee also recommended doing away with the Class B license, which allows people to carry non-concealed non-high-capacity weapons, and for additional suitability requirements for those applying for a firearm identification card – which is easier to obtain than a concealed-carry permit.

“Massachusetts is not a state where licensees routinely carry their firearms on their hip in the open,” the task force wrote. “As a result, only a small number of Class B licenses are issued in any given year.”

The task force recommended school resource officers be approved jointly by police and school officials, increased social workers in schools, and higher penalties for unauthorized possession of a gun on school grounds.

The task force’s recommendations could start the ball rolling on gun legislation on Beacon Hill.

Rep. Harold Naughton, a Clinton Democrat, candidate for attorney general and co-chairman of the Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, had initially planned for the committee to release a gun bill around the beginning of last autumn after traveling around the state holding hearings on the various gun proposals.

Groups with contrasting agendas, such as Stop Handgun Violence and Gun Owners Action League, have been awaiting the conclusion of the speaker’s task force, which has held 15 meetings, not open to the public, since DeLeo appointed the group on March 28, 2013.

GOAL generally wants better mental health screening for gun applicants and compliance with the NICS database, and GOAL opposes such measures as “micro-stamping” where identifying information is printed on a bullet when it is fired, and limits on the number of guns that can be purchased in a month.

The task force didn’t recommend limiting the number of guns that can be sold or requiring micro-stamping, and the group sought a limited participation with the federal database.

“The committee urges that any legislative changes not further stigmatize individuals with mental disorders nor ostracize individuals from seeking treatment and services,” the report said.

The task force found people with mental disorders are more likely to be the victim of violence, and said the groups with a heightened risk for future violence are people convicted of a violent misdemeanor, people subject to a domestic violence restraining order, people convicted of two or more intoxicated driving crimes in a period of five years, and people convicted of two or more misdemeanors involving a controlled substance in a period of five years.

Stop Handgun Violence founder John Rosenthal has said the state should include “copycat” weapons among the list of banned “assault” weapons. The report did not contain such a recommendation.

The report also notes the relative safety Massachusetts residents enjoy. Between 2001 and 2010, the nation’s per capita gun homicide rate was 2.5 times higher than Massachusetts; total gun deaths were 3 times higher in the nation at large; and nationally people committed suicide by gun at a rate 3.5 times higher than in Massachusetts. Generally 13 percent of Bay State households report having a gun, putting it near the lowest gun ownership rate in America, below Hawaii and sometimes below New Jersey.

In summary, the recommendations included:

— The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association should work with the Massachusetts Gun Control Advisory Board to develop a set of factors determining what constitutes a suitable person for gun ownership and licensure.

In the report, the committee wrote, “Current Massachusetts law does much to prohibit unsuitable persons from acquiring firearms, but the Committee believes that the current system could be improved . . . In Massachusetts the current licensing system is confusing to many and causes local police officials to spend extra effort deciding on the type of license that is appropriate. The committee recognizes that there have been many complaints that the lack of specific suitability standards has made the application process inconsistent throughout the municipalities in Massachusetts. The committee also believes that placing a definition of suitability in statute will not provide the necessary flexibility and discretion needed in allowing the licensing authority to make a reasoned decision.”

— People applying for a firearms identification card should undergo the same suitability standards as those seeking a gun license, and the state should eliminate the Class B license.

“Current Massachusetts law sets parameters for those who wish to carry a handgun or possess a rifle or shotgun,” the report said. “Beyond those parameters, however, a Chief of Police may deny a license to carry to someone that he finds ‘unsuitable’. No such allowance exists for a firearms identification card. As a result, a person who may have been arrested numerous times without having been convicted must be granted a firearms identification card.”

— Licenses should remain valid until they are either approved or denied, as long as the licensee applied for a new license before it expired, and there should be a “workable civil penalty” for expired licenses or FID cards.

— Firearms safety courses should be required to include “an extensive live fire component,” and the safety courses should be standardized and accredited, with a module on suicide.

— Conflicting state and federal law should be clarified so the state adopts the federal ban on convicted felons receiving an FID card. Current state law permits certain people to have their right to an FID card restored five years after a felony conviction.

— There should be background checks for all secondary private firearm sales, and the sales and checks should be completed through a licensed gun dealer, though there could be exemptions. In addition, all employees of licensed firearm dealers should be required to pass a background check.

— Upon license renewal, gun owners should verify they still possess all guns registered to them, there should be increased civil penalties for failing to report a stolen gun, and records from defunct gun dealers should be transferred to the Office of Public Safety and Security.

— There should be a tax incentive to encourage the purchase of gun safes, and the state should not require that firearms be stored at gun ranges, which some have proposed.

— The secretary of education should create a working committee to develop standardized protocols for school safety. Gov. Deval Patrick created a school safety task force in January. School systems should have school resource officers, who are appointed jointly by the superintendent and police chief, and not based on seniority. Schools should have access to radios to communicate with police and fire departments.

— The penalty for possession of an unauthorized firearm on the school grounds should be doubled from one year of imprisonment to two years and the offense should be made a “statutory right of arrest.”

— The state should narrow its parameters for reporting to the National Instant Background Check System and go into compliance with that system. “The Committee believes that only individuals who are drug dependent, substance abusers or have mental illness based upon a judicial finding of either substance abuse or mental illness and a likelihood of serious harm should be reported to NCIS. Individuals who seek voluntary treatment or are involuntarily hospitalized for assessment and evaluation should not be reported,” the report said.

— The state should consider a public service campaign encouraging family members to alert authorities when someone “may hurt themselves or others.”

— Schools should develop a mental health plan and more funding should be available for schools to identify and treat students with mental illness.

— There should be increased funding for mental health and substance abuse in urban areas, as well as neighborhood outreach workers, job programs, and family intervention. Overall, the task force members concluded that the state’s public mental health system “has eroded over the past ten years; on a relative basis, there was more funding for public mental health services in 2003 than in 2013.”

Never Forget Newtown Press Release

MASSACHUSETTS COALITION TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE RESOLVES TO “NEVER FORGET NEWTOWN”

At speaking event and vigil, Coalition calls on Legislature to Close Gaps in State Gun Laws

(Boston, MA) — Member organizations of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence today held an afternoon of “Remembrance and Resolve,” pledging to never forget Newtown, at First Church Boston.  The Coalition, made up of more than 30 organizations across the state, called on state and federal lawmakers to pass meaningful legislation that will close gaps in the state’s gun laws.  Today is the one-year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

The program began with an event co-sponsored by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns (part of more than 50 nation-wide “No More Silence” day of action events), featuring U.S. Congressman John Tierney, Boston Mayor-Elect Marty Walsh, gun violence survivors and community leaders.  Other speakers followed, including State Representatives Hank Naughton, David Linsky and Tom Conroy, homicide survivors Tina Chery and Kim Odom, and John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence.   The speaking program was followed by a candlelight vigil and service.

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Public Safety & Homeland Security is expected to release a new piece of gun violence prevention legislation in January for consideration by the Legislature early next year.

 “Gun violence kills more than 30,000 Americans every year, including more than 2,800 children and teenagers,” said Janet Goldenberg, Co-chair of Temple Beth Elohim Congregants to Prevent Gun Violence, a Coalition member organization.  “That’s 8 kids a day, a classroom of kids every three days.  We’re better than that, and we can do better than that.   Although Massachusetts has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, and the second-lowest gun-death rate of any state in the nation as a result, there are still significant gaps that contribute to needless deaths and injuries every year, whether homicides, suicides or accidents.   We urge lawmakers to pass meaningful legislation that will close the gaps in both our state and federal gun laws and save lives.” 

 Ann Krantz of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a founding coalition member organization, feels that today is about honoring the victims of the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook as well as the more than 200 children under age 13 who have been killed by guns since Newtown.  “We are here because we pledge to no longer remain silent about the toll that gun violence takes on our society. We are more motivated than ever to protect our children, our families and our communities from gun violence. Our country has been silent about the epidemic of gun violence for far too long, the time for silence is over”

The Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence was formed in February 2013 after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  As an umbrella organization, the Coalition brings together over thirty organizations and institutions across Massachusetts that are united in their desire to end the epidemic of gun violence that plagues our communities and takes the lives of so many of our citizens.

The Coalition is urging the Massachusetts Legislature to ensure that the following priorities are addressed in any legislation that is put forward for consideration:

  • Require a background check at the point of sale every time a gun is sold, including private sales, sales at gun shows and over the Internet;
  • Limit Handgun sales to one per month in order to deter straw purchasing and make it harder for gun traffickers to acquire multiple guns in a single transaction;
  • Share records of adjudicated commitments for mental health and substance abuse with the National Instant Check System as required by federal law;
  • Expand the existing suitability standard that currently applies only to the issuance of a License to Carry to the issuance of FID cards as well; and
  • Require law enforcement authorities to attempt to determine, every time a gun is involved in an injury or death, who owned the gun and where the gun came from; to maintain that data in a statewide database, and to share that data with public health researchers, policy makers, other law enforcement agencies and the general public.

 “We cannot wait for the federal government to act on this critical issue,” said Representative David Linsky (D-Natick). “Massachusetts may have some of the toughest gun laws, but there is still a great deal that needs to be done to stop gun violence in the Commonwealth. After Newtown, I pledged to do everything I could to pass comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation this session. Every member of the Massachusetts Legislature should have the same goal: to stop further deaths from guns.”

“It has repeatedly been proven that states with stronger gun laws have fewer firearm fatalities and injuries,” said John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence, another Coalition member organization.  “Urban-industrial Massachusetts has some of the most comprehensive gun laws and the second lowest gun fatality rate in the nation. We applaud the MA Legislature and Governor for making our state a national leader in gun violence prevention and strongly support their continued efforts to improve our state gun laws and save lives.”

Ellie Miller, chair of First Church’s Campaign Against Gun Violence and a co-organizer of the event said “We must come to understand that personal well-being is linked to the wellness of the larger communities that we build and share.  We are proud to be part of the Massachusetts Coalition and hope that today’s event will strengthen the ties between Boston’s community organizations working together to make all of Boston a safe and nurturing environment.”

Boston Remembers Newtown Venue change

Due to expected inclement weather on Saturday, the Boston Remembers Newtown event will begin at 2:00 PM at the First Church Boston, 66 Marlborough Street.

Speakers will include Mayor Elect Marty Walsh, Rep. David Linsky, Congressman John Tierney, Rep. Tom Conroy, Tina Chery, Kim Odom, Cindy Diggs, and John Rosenthal.

Please note the change of time and venue!

Closest MBTA Stations: Copley SQ and Arlington Street.   
Parking: Boston Common Garage ($12)

Boston Remembers Newtown

*Weather Update: The Boston Remembers Newtown Event will start at 2:00PM at the First Church Boston, 66 Marlborough Street due to inclement weather.*

December 14, 2013 marks the one year anniversary of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT that left 20 children and 6 teachers dead. The Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence will be holding a rally to call for substantive changes to gun legislation to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future, as well a commemorative walk and candlelight vigil.

Speakers currently scheduled for this event include Mayor Elect Marty Walsh, Rep. David Linsky, Congressman John Tierney, Rep. Tom Conroy, Tina Chery, Kim Odom, Cindy Diggs, and John Rosenthal.

Remembrance and Resolve: 2:00 PM– First Church Boston, 66 Marlborough Street

Candlelight Vigil: 4:00 PM–First Church Boston

Closest MBTA Stations: Copley SQ and Arlington Street.   
Parking: Boston Common Garage ($12)

In case of inclement weather, the event will begin at 2:00 PM at First Church Boston. Announcements about weather related changes will be posted here.

You can register to attend the event here. Please download and distribute flyers:Dec14FlyerDM_8.

MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence Plans Action Day at the State House

Coalition collage

Join the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence State House Action Day on November 6, 2013. It is time for our elected officials not just to listen, but to answer. This press event and lobbying day is your opportunity to make our collective priorities heard, by showing up and telling important decision makers one-on-one that we demand meaningful gun violence prevention legislation in order to curb the violence in all our communities. Register now so that we know how many people will be visiting each elected official. Click here for a flyer to print and share.

When: November 6, 2013
Where: Boston State House Grand Staircase Second Floor
Time: 10:00am- 12:30pm

Coalition’s Key Priorities for New Gun Legislation:

  1. Require background checks every time a gun is sold.
  2. Expand police chiefs’ discretion to deny gun licensees when appropriate.
  3. Limit gun sales to one gun per month.
  4. Collect data to better determine where crime guns are coming from.

Boston’s Mayoral Election Primary Results–Marty Walsh and John Connolly

September 24th’s primary election favored Marty Walsh and John Connolly. Final municipal elections will be held on November 5th.  Here’s how the final two candidates stand on issues related to gun violence:

Part I: Answers to Questions Posed by the MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

 MACPGV: Several candidates have suggested that planning for gun violence prevention should be coordinated between neighborhood leaders, clergy, police, the public health department, and other city agencies. Do you agree? How will you help these alliances effectively reduce neighborhood gun violence?

Marty Walsh: Yes, I do agree. Since the majority of gun violence is committed by youth, I’d also add in Boston Public Schools, teen jobs programs, and case managers at city and non-profit programs for high-risk youth. It’s also important to add in the Boston Police Department, probation departments, Department of Youth Services, and Boston Reentry Initiative to help monitor frequent offenders upon release. There’s no way that any one group can coordinate this alone. It has to be a collaborative approach. Operation Ceasefire showed some success with this kind of model years ago, and the PACT program currently uses something like it. I would like to take it a step further to increase clinical services and work to provide at-risk elementary and middle school students with services before they start to carry guns. There also needs to be more community policing and increased police/student partnerships so that the trust of police that has been lost in some communities can be regained.

MACPGV: Many shootings in Boston have been committed by criminals who obtained their guns through an illegal gun market. Will your mayoral office pledge to ask the question “Where did the gun come from?” for each gun crime in the city and follow up by reporting the findings?

Marty Walsh: Yes. I will engage with municipal leaders in cities known as pathways for guns to Boston. I will engage elected officials and law enforcement across city and state lines to help prevent and remove the flow of illegal firearms from surrounding states with more lax gun laws to Boston. Partnering with fellow mayors in this fashion will highlight my collaborative and innovative approach to city government.

MACPGV: Mayor Menino helped found Mayors Against Illegal Guns and served as co-chair. Will you join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns and are you willing to take a leadership role with this group? Will you continue to dedicate mayoral staff to MAIG?

Marty Walsh: Yes. As I mentioned in the previous question, I hope to do even more by directly communicating across city and state lines to elected officials and law enforcement. As mayor I will continue Mayor Menino’s legacy on the fight against illegal guns, while also expanding upon it. I will also continue to dedicate mayoral staff to MAIG.

********************

MACPV: Several candidates have suggested that planning for gun violence prevention should be coordinated between neighborhood leaders, clergy, police, the public health department, and other city agencies. Do you agree? How will you help these alliances effectively reduce neighborhood gun violence?

John Connolly: I absolutely agree. The “Boston Miracle” that halted youth homicides in Boston in the 1990s was the result of a focused effort on comprehensive violence prevention through coalition-building between police and the community. We can reclaim that miracle. As mayor, I will ensure that Boston Police have the resources and the mandate to engage in genuine community policing by connecting with youth workers, clergy, community organizers, and the general public. But that’s not enough. Families in crisis struggle to keep their children in school and off the streets. As mayor, 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 high-quality education, the impact is felt across generations. By coordinating support services, our city can stop that cycle.

It’s worth emphasizing how important it is to provide an excellent education for every student in Boston if we want to reduce violence on our streets. As a former teacher, I have seen what happens when young people lose hope or come to believe that there are no opportunities for them. When a young person has no hope then he or she has nothing to lose. We instill hope and reduce crime and violence by providing every child with a high-quality education and by addressing the specific needs of every child, which includes providing services for children who suffer from trauma or mental health issues or who speak English as a second language. We also instill hope and reduce crime and violence by creating good jobs across the city. As renowned antiviolence leader Father Greg Boyle of Los Angeles says, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” I couldn’t agree more, and I believe strongly that ending violence on our streets requires that we improve educational and job opportunities for everyone.

MACPGV: Many shootings in Boston have been committed by criminals who obtained their guns through an illegal gun market. Will your mayoral office pledge to ask the question “Where did the gun come from?” for each gun crime in the city and follow up by reporting the findings?

John Connolly: Yes. Bostonians have a right to know where the guns are coming from that are used to create so much violence on our streets.

MACPGV: Mayor Menino helped found Mayors Against Illegal Guns and served as co-chair. Will you join the Mayors Against Illegal Guns and are you willing to take a leadership role with this group? Will you continue to dedicate mayoral staff to MAIG?

John Connolly: Yes. Although Massachusetts has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, we are susceptible to a flow of guns across our borders from states with weaker laws. A 2010 report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that Massachusetts had one of the lowest ratios of crime gun exports to crime gun imports in the United States. We have got to follow Mayor Menino’s example and work closely with leaders from other cities to take on the debate at the national level. I will be a strong voice in support of national background checks, assault weapon bans, limits on magazine sizes, and the closing of gun show loopholes to reduce the flow of guns into Boston from states with weaker laws. We can’t give up until we have better gun laws and safer streets.

Answers from additional primary mayoral candidates can be found here.

Part II: from the DORCHESTER REPORTER 2013 MAYORAL CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE

Marty Walsh:

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.

John Connolly:

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.

Answers from additional primary mayoral candidates can be found here.