BOSTON, JAN. 31, 2013…. With momentum growing behind federal gun control reforms and multiple proposals surfacing on Beacon Hill, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and more than a dozen urban and suburban Massachusetts mayors on Thursday promised to talk every day, if necessary, about the need for stricter national laws, calling the problem of gun violence one without borders.
The mayors gathered at the Parkman House on Beacon Hill to tape a public service announcement that will air across Massachusetts. In addition to lobbying Congress to pass a national assault weapons ban and mandatory background checks, Menino said the mayors intend to make their voices heard in the State House as well.
Quoting President Ronald Reagan, Menino said, “When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” The mayor said he hoped interim U.S. Sen. William ‘Mo’ Cowan, appointed Wednesday by Gov. Deval Patrick, would join Sen. Elizabeth Warren to support “common sense reform.”
“We are not going to let this fade away even if we have to talk about it every single day,” said Menino, who co-chairs Mayors Against Illegal Guns with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Twenty-six Massachusetts mayors have joined the nearly 1,000 municipal leaders across the country in the effort.
Menino called on Congress to reinstate the federal assault weapons ban and prohibit high capacity ammunition magazines. He also said gun trafficking should be made a federal crime and said the national background check system must be strengthened.
Since the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings, more lawmakers in Massachusetts have taken an interest in toughening the state’s gun laws, already among the strictest in the country. Gov. Deval Patrick has filed a proposal, as has Rep. David Linsky, Sen. Cynthia Creem and others, and Speaker Robert DeLeo is assembling a task force to study the issue.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, a self-described supporter of the Second Amendment and a former gun owner, said none of the restrictions on gun ownership being considered should be viewed as undermining an individual’s right to bear arms.
“Shootings in schools, mass shootings with multiple fatalities, shootings of innocent bystanders have become all too common. Our goal must be to completely eliminate these tragedies and their devastating consequences. There is no other option,” Curtatone said.
Curtatone said required background checks for private gun sales is a “common sense” reform, but stressed that guns, including handguns, are carried across Massachusetts borders every day by people who purchase weapons outside of Massachusetts in states with laxer gun laws.
He called Linsky’s bill banning high-capacity magazines, closing background check loopholes, requiring legal assault weapons to be stored at gun clubs outside the home, and requiring liability insurance for gun owners with a higher sales tax on weapons and ammunition a “trailblazing” piece of legislation.
Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan, the president of the Massachusetts Mayors Association, said the problem of gun violence is not an urban, suburban or rural problem. “It’s an American problem,” he said.
“This is not a time for posturing. It’s not a time for rhetoric, hot rhetoric or finger pointing. It is a time for honest answers, earnest discussions and action to stop these needless and senseless acts of violence so all communities, both here in Massachusetts and throughout the United States, can be safer,” Sullivan said.
After the fatal shooting of a former Marine and skateboard shop owner outside his store in downtown Malden on Tuesday, Malden Mayor Gary Christenson extended his thoughts and prayers to the family of Shawn Clark, and said he supported Attorney General Martha Coakley’s push to expand the state’s wiretapping laws. “Our law enforcement officials need tools,” Christenson said.
While some efforts to address gun violence have focused on treating and identifying those with mental illness to bar them from owning a weapon, Menino said other health issues such as drug and alcohol addiction should be considered.
After Newtown, National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre called for arming more people in schools to protect children from shooters. “That’s crazy, and he’s crazy too,” Menino said.
The Boston mayor said he was hopeful President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s push for gun control would lead to Congressional action.
According to the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, mayors in attendance included: Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan of Braintree, President, Mass Mayors Association, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville, Chair, Metro Mayors Coalition, Mayor William F. Scanlon of Beverly, Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. of Everett, Mayor Lisa Wong of Fitchburg, Mayor Patrick Ó. Murphy of Lowell, Mayor Gary Christenson of Malden, Mayor Michael J. McGlynn of Medford, Mayor Robert J. Dolan of Melrose, Mayor Jonathan Mitchell of New Bedford, Mayor Setti Warren of Newton, Mayor Thomas Koch of Quincy, Mayor Daniel Rizzo of Revere, Mayor Kimberley Driscoll of Salem, Mayor Scott D. Galvin of Woburn.
Menino declined to take questions about the special Senate election to replace John Kerry, or the casino rivalry between Boston and Everett, telling a reporter, “We’re here to talk about guns.”