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Mayor Walsh and Police Commissioner Evens announce additional steps to curb gun violence

September 9, 2015

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

Mayor Martin J. Walsh and Boston Police Commissioner William Evans today announced steps to increase public safety in the City of Boston by engaging in extensive outreach to gun licensees and vendors, and convening a regional gun summit to discuss best practices.  Although the number of gun homicides is down nearly 30 percent compared to this time last year, Boston has recently seen an uptick in non-fatal shootings. 

"We must think creatively in order to reduce the amount of illegal guns and violence on our streets," said Mayor Walsh. "Last year, the Legislature took real steps to strengthen our gun control laws, and I look forward to continuing to work with our government and community partnersto create neighborhoods where all of our families can feel safe." 

"These individuals who are doing the shootings, they have access to illegal weapons on the street," said Commissioner Evans. "Without better enforcement and education, we're letting things slip through the cracks and legally purchased firearms are falling into the hands of criminals. In 2014 and 2015, the Boston Police Department has recovered 1,500 guns from the streets of Boston, and will continue to combat gun violence by using proactive, targeted enforcement. These new initiatives will supplement the great work of the officers by asking legal gun owners and vendors to do their part to combat violence in the neighborhoods." 

In a recently published study commissioned by Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans that analyzed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) trace data on 3,202 handguns recovered by the Boston Police Department between 2007 and 2013, the study found that 32.4 percent of traceable recovered handguns were originally purchased from a Massachusetts Federal Firearms License dealer. According to the study's author, Dr. Anthony Braga, of these Massachusetts-sourced firearms, almost 85 percent of them were recovered from someone other than the original, legal purchaser. Sixty-three percent of these guns had not been reported as transferred or sold to the Massachusetts Firearms Records Bureau, even though such transfers are required by law. Only 11 percent had been reported lost or stolen. 

Some Highlights of the Findings:

  • 3,764: total number of firearms recovered by BPD between 2007 and 2013
  • 3,202: number of handguns analyzed in study
  • 64.2 percent recovered in illegal gun possession crimes
  • 5.2 percent recovered in violent crimes (homicide, aggravated assault & robbery)

 

While the report indicates that criminals in Massachusetts still depend on guns from outside the state, it also highlights the need for continued education about the new state law that requires secondary transfers to be submitted to the state's Firearms Records Bureau's online reporting system. The move to online processing was designed to be fast and convenient, and to address gaps in records submission like those highlighted in the study.  It is imperative that legal gun owners know about the online system, and utilize it, so law enforcement can better trace crime guns and continue to find where illegal guns are coming from.

Mayor Walsh is actively working to engage local communities to change the trajectory of those involved in violence. The Mayor's Office of Public Safety and the BPD are working side by side with residents and neighborhood-based social service providers on a number of initiatives, such as community engagement walks, designed to create a street-level approach to combating gun violence. On the supply side, Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans are driving additional efforts aimed at keeping firearms off the streets and out of the hands of criminals. The following steps will immediately be implemented in an effort to assist with the safety, security, and tracking of firearms in the City of Boston.

 

  1. Letter to Gun Licensees  

Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans believe strongly that Boston's responsible gun owners are equally concerned with gun trafficking and the illegal use of guns.  With that in mind, Mayor Walsh and Commissioner Evans will send a letter to all gun licensees in the City of Boston to personally ask for their help in reducing gun violence in the City and combat the noncompliance with the new firearms transfer requirements implemented last year. The letter will provide licensees with:

  • Information on how to properly report a private gun sale, loss or theft.  In light of Dr. Braga's research and findings, it is imperative that all gun sales, losses and thefts are reported accurately and in a timely manner.  Gun licensees are reminded of this new requirement in the law, and specifics on how to electronically report secondary sales.  
  • Opportunity for a free gun lock.  Free gun locks will be available at Boston Police Headquarters and district stations to gun licensees to assist them in properly securing their firearms.
  • Information on how to turn in a firearm.  With the recent re-launch of "Your Piece for Peace," should a legal gun owner wish to turn in a firearm, they can do so at a district station for a $200 gift card.
  • Advice on proper weapon storage.  Gun licensees are advised to contact the Boston Police Department Licensing Unit to obtain assistance on how to properly store and /or dispose of their weapons.

2. Survey to Gun Vendors during bidding process about Preventing Illegal Firearm Sales, Gun Safety Measures, and Education on Straw Purchasing 

In conjunction with the Arms with Ethics Responsible Gun Vendor Initiative, going forward the Boston Police Department will require all firearm vendors and retailers who respond to bids for the purchase of Department firearms to complete a survey about responsible gun vendor practices and include their responses to the survey with their bid response.  These responses will be included as part of the overall bid package, and will be evaluated by the Department to ensure the vendors and retailers are following best practices in their own company to prevent illegal gun sales and theft.  We are also evaluating an engagement program that will offer resources and tools to help get vendors and retailers to utilize these best practices to prevent illegal gun sales and theft.

3. Regional gun summit in Fall 2015 with Mayors and Law Enforcement Leaders to discuss a multi-jurisdictional approach to prevent gun violence.

Because gun violence is a problem faced by every major city and town in the nation, conversations must continue to take place between Mayors and Law Enforcement to advance solutions and coordination.  Mayor Walsh is committed to leading this initiative in an effort to use all tools available to make the City's neighborhoods safer.

Last week, Mayor Walsh filed an ordinance banning replica handguns in public spaces. Given the authentic look of many of the replica handguns on our streets, residents and even police officers have a difficult time determining what is a real firearm versus an imitation firearm. 

The ordinance will allow the Boston Police Department to confiscate replica firearms and require the owner to pick it up in person at the district station. If a replica handgun is confiscated from someone under the age of 18, BPD will notify the parent or guardian that the minor was found with a replica handgun in a public space. The parent or guardian will then have the option to retrieve the replica firearm, but BPD will not release it directly to the minor. By engaging parents and guardians, BPD hopes the community can be allies in the effort to remove replica firearms from the hands of our youth. In 2015, the Boston Police Department has recovered over 100 replica handguns in connection with crimes.