When state gun control activists consider the impacts of President Barack Obama’s executive actions on firearms, they look north.
Massachusetts groups pushing for stricter gun laws told Metro this week that Obama’s ideas —among them expanding background check requirements and closing the so-called “gun show loophole” — could help slow the flow of guns across state lines.
“Over time, it will certainly make it more difficult for criminals to get guns and it will save lives,” said John Rosenthal, founder of the Massachusetts-based group Stop Handgun Violence. He joined Obama at the White House for the executive order’s announcement Monday, but also said he hoped to see stricter rules on gun storage and safety technology, as well as more robust regulation of gun licenses and the gun-making industry.
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As many as two in three guns involved in crimes in the Commonwealth were bought in states where firearm laws are more lax — states like Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine – advocates who spoke to Metro said.
“Only two states have higher percentages of out-of-state guns found at crime scenes,” said Ellie Miller, chair of an anti-gun violence campaign at First Church in Boston. “Tightening background checks nationally will be helpful to every state in a way that strengthening laws only in individual states cannot cover.”
“We look forward to the next step,” said Molly Malloy of the state’s wing of Moms Demand Action, which collected 1 million signatures in favor of gun control ahead of the announcement. “Which is trying to ask Congress to insist on background checks for every gun sold.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, who was also in Washington Monday for the announcement, said in a statement “this is not just a local issue, or an inner-city issue. Guns move across city and state lines and all too easily from legal ownership to criminal possession.”
At the same time, expanding background checks needs to come with better protections for women — so-called “straw buyers — whose partners force them to use their clean records to buy guns and skirt regulations, said Nancy Robinson, executive director of an advocacy group called OperationLIPSTICK.
The executive actions “are absolutely a strong step in the right direction, but we know that it will put even more pressure on women to act as straw buyers,” Robinson said.
That pressure is real, said A.P. a Boston 35-year-old who asked Metro not to print her full name.
Although she never actually bought a gun, she said she served five months and 10 days in prison when an ex-boyfriend pinned an illegal gun charge on her. She now coaches at-risk women to stay away from gun-toting men.
“I’m trying to show girls that they shouldn’t just do what the guy tells them to do because of love,” she said. “You’re buying that gun for someone else and they’re killing innocent people in the streets.”
And according to Jamarhl Crawford, who said he grew up seeing first-hand what illegal guns can do to a community, stopping shootings in Boston will take more than executive actions from Obama.
“He’s far off,” said Crawford, a 44-year-old from Roxbury. “He has never seen it on the street levels. This won’t stop the murders in urban communities.”
The Roxbury 44-year-old said he can’t even remember how many people he knows who, over the decades, have been shot on the streets of Boston.
In 2004, a bullet grazed his left shoulder (“three inches from my heart,” he said).
“It’s so common,” Crawford said. “People are finally getting hip to this problem. It’s crazy.”
Metro reporter Nate Homan contributed reporting.