Members of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence from across the state gathered at Assumption College in Worcester for the second of the regional legislative hearings on Gun Violence. Testifiers shared their personal experiences of gun violence, as victims and survivors who have lost people they love.
Dr. Peter McConarty, a survivor of multiple gunshot wounds,testified about the need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. In 1983, Ivan Dunbinsky shot Peter five times—in his right arm, in both legs, and twice in the abdomen. Dunbinsky had two old guns with small ammunition clips. The police told Peter that “if he had been carrying a more powerful weapon I would have been dead. It is a fact that if Dunbinsky had not needed to stop and reload, I would have been killed. Peter spoke powerfully about the trauma both he and his family endured because of the shooting, and called on MA legislatures to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
Peter’s brother Ned Notis-McConarty, a leader in the B-PEACE for Jorge antiviolence campaign of the Episcopal Diocese, also testified. The B-PEACE for Jorge campaign began after 19-year old Jorge Fuentes was shot and killed outside his home in Dorchester in September 2012.
Nikeirah Straughter of Teen Empowerment spoke eloquently about the death of Jorge Fuentes in her testimony. But Jorge’s shooting was not an isolated tragedy. Five of Nikeirah’s friends have been shot in the past three months, one of whom was shot 5 times. Although he survived, Nikeirah described him as living in a “prison in his own mind,” too afraid of the outside world to attend his own graduation. He will not leave the house without a gun, which he purchased without ID from a straw purchaser. “My community is dying from straw purchasing,” Nikeirah said. “Something has to give I’m not saying take away all the guns, and I’m not trying to take away anybody’s rights.” Nikeirah acknowledges the other dangers she faces in her community—of rape, assault, and kidnapping—but does not believe that carrying guns for protection is the solution. Turning to a previous testifier, she said, “I respect that you want to protect your family, but you have to respect us too.”
Levi Doumbia, of Teen Empowerment, also spoke to the problems of straw purchasing and trafficking in urban areas. “I am a strong supporter of ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people—with guns’, so people who freely walk through the community killing human beings unjustly should be prohibited from purchasing firearms,” Levi argued, turning a well-known adage of the NRA on its head. Like many who testified at the hearing, Levi has friends and family who have been victims of gun violence. But he also acknowledged the people he has known who have been perpetrators. “That makes it a very serious situation in my eyes—to know that people I know and love are on the streets causing pains for others and their families.”
Over 30 teens and youth from Teen Empowerment, the NAACP Pipeline to Leadership Program, and Roxbury Presbyterian Church rode to the hearings in a bus organized and sponsored by the church. Other testimony came from the Worcester Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Mom’s Demand Action, the League of Women Voters, clergy, and the youth from the LEAD organization at Leominster High School.
Members of the Coalition are urging the MA State legislature to pass laws that would strengthen background checks, provide one suitability standard for all gun purchases including long-guns, prohibit high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, and work to reduce trafficking in illegal firearms. While Massachusetts is a leader in gun violence protection, we still lose more than 200 people a year to gun violence.