Gun control advocates in Westborough call for common ground with opponents

Congressman Jim McGovern speaks Oct. 13 at the Forum on Preventing Gun Violence in Westborough. McGovern said that extreme factions in the gun lobby have prevented meaningful gun control legislation.  Photo/John Swinconeck

Congressman Jim McGovern speaks Oct. 13 at the Forum on Preventing Gun Violence in Westborough. McGovern said that extreme factions in the gun lobby have prevented meaningful gun control legislation.
Photo/John Swinconeck

By John Swinconeck, Contributing Writer

Westborough – Speaking at the Forum on Preventing Gun Violence at Congregation B'sai Shalom in Westborough Oct. 13, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D- 2nd District), said there needs to be a broader coalition of responsible gun owners to lessen gun violence.

McGovern called on gun owners to “stand up” to extremism “by taking a public stand on sensible legislation that doesn’t take away their constitutional rights.”

The congressman also repeated a call for tighter restrictions on sales at gun shows, mandates for background checks, and bans on certain types of weapons. McGovern decried the failure of the House and Senate to provide stricter gun regulations in wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, blaming pressure from “extreme” elements of the gun lobby.

“It is the extreme elements of these groups that are calling the shots. [National Rifle Association Executive Vice President] Wayne LaPierre, I think, is nuts, and I know people in the NRA who cringe whenever he stands up,” McGovern said.

McGovern said moderate congressmen need “political coverage” against voter and gun lobby backlash to allow them to “vote a different way.”

“People in Washington fall all over themselves to see who is the most extreme,” he said, adding: “We have a gun lobby that gets nervous when doctors ask patients if there's a gun in the house. Even that's controversial, and that's not even about changing the law.”

“Our challenge is to reach out to those people who are gun owners in an effort to take responsible steps to prevent gun violence,” McGovern said, in order to “depolarize” the debate over gun control. “The mainstream is not represented in Washington and not represented in our laws.”

He continued: “I do respect the Constitution. I's not saying take your firearm away, but there are responsible constraints on freedom. We'se talking about rationality and what's reasonable. In this debate, those two things have been sacrificed.”

Whether McGovern can be the man who reaches out to gun control opponents is questionable. McGovern has an “F” rating from the National Rifle Association, according to VoteSmart.org, and from the Northborough-based Gun Owners” Action League (GOAL).

Efforts to reach a GOAL representative for comment were unsuccessful.

“My plea here is we need to figure out a way to broaden our coalition, to start bringing in people who have a differing opinion but have a lot in common with us,” McGovern said.

Dr. Michael P. Hirsch, a pediatric specialist at UMass Memorial in Worcester and founder of that city's Goods for Guns firearm buy-back program, also spoke at the forum. He began the program in 2000 to allow firearm owners the opportunity to exchange their weapon for gift certificates. Since then, the buyback, held every December, has collected more than 2,000 firearms and distributed more than 750 trigger locks, according to UMass Medical Center's website.

Hirsch said his inspiration comes in part from the memory of a colleague who was shot and killed in 1981. Since then, however, Hirsch said that American society has become “almost immune” to news of mass shootings such as the Newtown Massacre and the recent shooting at the Washington shipyard.

Hirsch praised the city of Worcester for having the lowest rates of penetrating trauma injuries per capita of any Massachusetts city. He attributed Worcester's success to what he called an “extremely progressive” police department that is “very selective on who gets a gun permit.”

Hirsch also added that he “had nothing but respect for responsible gun owners,” adding that gun ownership is “intrinsic to America's pioneer heritage.” However, he decried the level of unsecured firearms that exist.

David Hemenway, a professor of Health Policy and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, said that attitudes ?”social norms” must change in order for gun violence to abate. He used America's changing attitude over the decades toward automobile safety as a comparison. Roads and vehicles have been made safer to help compensate for driver error. Meanwhile, pressures against drunk drivers increased through grassroots organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

“Thirty years ago, drunk driving was considered OK,” Hemenway said. “Then we had a real social movement.”

Hemenway also criticized the U.S. for having the most permissive and weakest gun laws in any democratized industrial country.

Many who spoke at the forum, like Hirsch, had their lives touched by gun violence. Ilyse Levine-Kanji, chair of the Westborough School Committee, said she lost her grandfather in 1977, and her mentor, Jack Berman, in the infamous 101 California Street shooting in 1993.

“The gun lobby is vocal, but the majority want to support reasonable gun safety legislation,” said Levine-Kanji.

B'sai Shalom's Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz said that there was a “moral and ethical obligation to speak up and act” regarding gun violence.





Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=41505

Posted by on Oct 19 2013. Filed under Byline Stories, Must read news, Westborough. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

6 Comments for “Gun control advocates in Westborough call for common ground with opponents”

  1. The terms “reasonable” and “sensible” have different meaning to this author than to the rest of the world. The proposed laws defeated in congress, were extreme. We already have far too restrictive laws on gun ownership. The Bill of Rights is clear, “infringe” is not a complicated idea.
    Any group that uses “gun violence” is just too bias to take seriously. We should all be looking at ways to reduce violence, it makes no difference if the violence is caused by a person with a knife, club, bat or bomb. Violence is not something that we should encourage.

  2. How can you have any compromise when the anti-gun crowd explicitly states in the article that they intend on further restricting firearms? What do gun owners get out of this? I thought compromise was a two-way street? Compromise does not mean me or any other law-abiding American giving up their natural rights to satisfy a collectivist fantasy.

  3. The inconvenient fact it that our right to Keep and BEAR arms have been increasingly restored over last several years and more citizens are now free to carry firearms in more places since the year 1900. Yet, homicides, including homicides with firearms, as well as all other violent crime have been decreasing since 2006. Moreover, after a dramatic increase in firearms sales and ownership after the last Presidential election including an increase in first time firearms purchases and an increase in firearms carry permits, citizen disarmament zealots and organizations predicted that there would be a corresponding increase in homicides and other violent crime. However, the U.S. homicide rate decreased from 5.0 per 100,000 in 2009 to 4.8 per 100,000 in 2010, and 4.7 per 100,000 in 2011.

    In addition, two recent studies found that firearms homicides have dropped 49% since 1993.

    We do not need any additional restrictions on our right to keep and bear arms.





  4. Laws are restrictions. Restrictions are infringements. The Bill of Rights clearly states that this right shall not be infringed.

    Yet you insist that cooperating with the infringement of our rights is a reasonable thing to ask.

    Well, it isn’t, and we won’t.

    If you really want to cooperate, how about cooperating with the Constitution? Or is that too “extremist” for you…?

  5. I think I have a fair compromise. All of these leaders asking for common sense gun reform completely disarm themselves and by their own logic they will be a shining example of gun safety. We need gun free zones around all these lying POS.

  6. 3 POINTS to consider:

    1. Research historical facts regarding governments ‘disarming their people.’ See, “Innocents Betrayed”(57min, free) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUmKT43j4Tc

    2. Our US revolution began after incidents of British military SWAT teams invaded homes and took their weapons.

    3. In the past 20 years, most gun violence incidents were done by people taking psychotropic drugs. This issue is extremely serious and yet, no state or federal committee has been formed to address it. These drugs(antidepressants, some sleep medications, and antipsychotics) need close supervision by psychiatrists because the patients response to its effects can be deadly. Suicides, violence and murder statistics are there…so where are our lawmakers going with this?

    Gun owners must have a clean criminal record to obtain and keep a license. When you own a gun license, you can never deviate from the law to keep it. Only criminals have guns illegally. Only criminals and ‘jackboots’ WILL HAVE guns after the Federal Government disarms The People.

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