Forum targets gun source

At a community meeting held at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School last Wednesday the question heard most was, "Where did the gun come from?"

It's a non-rhetorical question that Citizens for Safety are urging people to ask after every single shooting since the majority of shootings in Boston are with illegal guns.

Citizens for Safety's mission is to "focus on the people who supply guns illegally to criminals and youth to cut off the flood of crime guns at the source." Through a string of new meetings, called "Traffick Jams," the group, in conjunction with neighborhood organizations, aims to help stem the flow of illegal guns into Boston.

"We want to empower people with the tools they need to carry the message of trafficking… so that they can carry the message further," Nancy Robinson, the executive director of Citizens for Safety, said.

Commissioner Ed Davis and Superintendent Paul Joyce of the Boston Police Department, Jorge Martinez, executive director of Project RIGHT, Jennifer Hannaford of the Latent Print Unit of the Boston Police Department, and John Rosenthal of Stop Handgun Violence also spoke at the meeting, which drew an audience of about 50.

Those who attended the meeting received what Robinson called an "advocate's toolkit," with meeting notes and pamphlets. Also included were tips on writing petitions and reaching the media through letters to the editor, press releases, Op-Eds, and calling in on radio and television shows.

Robinson said that by asking where the gun came from after every shooting and urging others, including elected officials, the media, and police, to ask that same question, it will bring awareness and a call to change the law.

"Our aim is to create a voice for the grassroots, the people most affected, to organize at the community level to use our power and our voices to have as much influence on our law as the NRA does," she said.

Robinson, Martinez and Rosenthal stressed that contrary to popular belief some, not most, illegal guns come from robberies. Rather, the number one source of illegal guns is licensed gun dealers that break the law.

Straw purchasers (those who buy guns for someone else) and gun shows are two other major sources of illegal guns. Lax federal laws make it easier for illegal guns to go into the wrong hands, they said.

Martinez, who has been the director at Grove Hall's Project RIGHT for 17 years, said that illegal guns is an issue that can be tackled.

He wants people to see that, "we have problems in the current laws and some solutions on that table that they can already take."

Last Wednesday's meeting was the first of at least four Traffick Jams that Citizens for Safety will conduct in Boston neighborhoods this summer. Because of the feedback Robinson received on Wednesday, she said that at future meetings there will be time set aside for people to start breaking into groups based on what their concerns are.

"We're looking to Traffick Jam to roll out in two phases, education outreach and an action group. The working groups will be made up of people who attended the workshops," she said. The groups, she added, may focus on issues like raising awareness of the risks associated with straw purchasing or working with the legislature to tighten gun-related laws.

Davis spoke about everyone working together to stop the flow of illegal guns. "The key component to any successful program is a robust partnership with the community," Davis said to the audience.

Of the information presented at the workshop, he said, "It's critically important that we get this information out to you."

John Barbour, Project RIGHT's board president and chair president of Quincy-Geneva Housing Corporation, said that the meeting was a good first step.

"Grove Hall is a good area to begin nationwide," he said, adding that more needs to follow. "We could meet here every month and it would be the same people…now it's for us to carry the message to the greater community," he said. "We'll act as ambassadors to our community to disseminate the information."

The next Traffick Jam meeting will be held at Bowdoin Street Health Center on June 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. For information, see wheredidtheguncomefrom.com or call 617-233-5363.