DeLeo leads call to stem gun violence

Lauren Dezenski, Reporter Staff
May. 28, 2014

Mayor Martin Walsh spoke to residents gathered in the Lee School for the Dorchester-Mattapan B3 Advisory meeting on Tuesday night. Photo by Isabel Leon/Mayor's Office

An array of elected officials, including the Speaker of the House and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, issued a call to end gun violence in the B-3 police district and beyond, urging community members to do their part by alerting authorities to the location of illegal weapons.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo addressed the monthly meeting of the Dorchester-Mattapan B-3 meeting at the Lee School on Talbot Avenue came at the invitation of host Rep. Russell Holmes. The B-3 police district serves sections of Dorchester and Mattapan. The House Speaker called it a coincidence that he was at the well-attended meeting just hours after rolling out long-awaited legislation aimed at reducing gun violence in communities across the state.

In his speech to a crowd of over 200, DeLeo recalled 11 year-old Tiffany Moore, who was killed by a stray bullet while sitting atop a mailbox on Humboldt Avenue during a mid-August evening in 1988. She was a “youngster who really wasn’t involved. Who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said. The killing unleashed an outcry from the community against gang violence and drew national media attention.

Although crime rates in the city’s neighborhoods have seen a decline from a violemnt peak in the early 1990s, gun violence in Boston remains concentrated in sections of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan. DeLeo and other leaders said there is still more that can be done to address the flow of illegal guns in the state.

“The naysayers out there say ‘What is there to address? Massachusetts has some of the strongest [gun] laws in the country.’ And that’s true, by the way. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do better,”” said DeLeo.

Earlier in the day, the House Speaker had unveiled details of a comprehensive legislative package that takes aim at illegal guns and their sources. DeLeo told the Lee School crowd that he had already fielded phone calls from angry constituents opposed to any new gun laws. Passing the bill will be anything but a “slam dunk,” he said.

“This isn’t going to be easy,” he told the crowd. “We’re going to need support from folks all over the area to get the point across that we need some gun legislation and we need it now.”

Mayor Martin J. Walsh made a passionate appeal for help to those gathered in the Lee School’s cafeteria. He specifically discussed a shooting that happened there fewer than 24 hours prior to the meeting.

“I know I’m preaching to the choir, in the audience, but we have to let people in the neighborhood know that they have to speak up,” Walsh said.

“There was a shooting last night in Uphams Corner, where the police were sitting in the neighborhood until 4:30 in the morning. And then, when they left, there was a shooting, where somebody shot 20 rounds into cars and houses. That can’t happen. Somebody knows who did that shooting.”

The audience broke into applause. “That’s right,” a woman called.

“And somebody has to step up to the plate to let us know.”

Rep. Harold Naughton, chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security which will hear DeLeo’s bill before it makes its way to the House floor for debate, was involved in the legislation’s development. Naughton also spoke and answered audience questions, along with Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley and police officers from the district. A number of state legislators and city councilors also attended, including Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry, Rep. Dan Cullinane, and Rep. Evandro Caravalho.

In an interview following the event, Holmes said the goal of the meeting was to inform the community about progress being made in the district, but there was an added benefit to the large crowd.

“It still makes an impression on leadership when they see this many people show up in a neighborhood that they read about, even though he said we all seem similar. But you still read a lot of things in the paper that give you a misconception about our neighborhood,” Holmes said.

“The speaker knows when I walk into a room to chat about this issue that these people are behind me with the things that I’m advocating for.”

While gun buyback programs and a concerted police effort to get guns off the streets have been effective so far this year–already yielding 590 guns compared to 2013’s total 650 guns, Walsh said that still was not enough.

“It’s May 27. We’re living in Boston, Massachusetts, and we’re applauding that we took 590 guns off the street. If that were any other place in America, any other suburban town, people would be moving,” said Walsh. “But you stay, and you fight. And you stick up for your neighborhood. And I thank you.”