Nancy Robinson, executive director of the reborn Citizens for Safety, has spent the last 11 months working on campaigns aimed at shutting down what she calls the “iron pipeline” through which guns enter Boston. (St. John Barned-Smith photo)
|In Citizens for Safety’s new postcard campaign, victims of gun violence send letters to state officials describing the personal stories of their experience. (Image courtesy of Citizens for Safety)
Eleven months ago, Newton resident Nancy Robinson and her fellow members of the Massachusetts Against Trafficking Handguns Coalition took a symbolic step in their fight against handgun violence: They changed their organization’s name to Citizens for Safety.
Since assuming the mantle of the defunct grassroots group whose community organizing work contributed to the “Boston Miracle” crime reduction of the 1990s, executive director Robinson and her colleagues have been busy — hosting neighborhood meetings about gun violence, organizing direct-mail campaigns and asking an important question about firearm-related crimes in Greater Boston:
Where are the guns coming from?
The question may seem simple, but the answer isn’t — which is one of the reasons why the coalition of concerned residents brought Citizens for Safety back, according to Robinson.
“There are two to three reasons,” she said. “One of the highlights [of the original effort] was gun buyback, which was very successful in getting thousands of guns off the street.
“We felt this was the next logical step — we’ve got to get guns off the street and keep them from getting replaced,” she added.
Robinson compared the flow of illegal firearms into Boston to water escaping a leaky faucet. She said that the city’s attempts to buy back guns — while successful — have been like putting down a bucket to catch errant drops, when what’s really needed is fixing the damaged pipe.
Citizens for Safety wants to plug the leak once and for all, stopping the flow of guns into Massachusetts from Georgia, New Hampshire, and Vermont and other points along what Robinson calls the “iron pipeline” into Boston.
“Tracing guns back to the source and making sure the sources are held accountable, that was our number one concern,” she said, noting that five out of six guns recovered in crime were obtained illegally, according to a 2005 report by criminal justice researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities.
“Youth and convicts do not have a right to own a handgun [and] cannot legally purchase or possess a handgun, so every time you hear about a shooting and the shooting involves a teen or someone with a violent criminal history, you know right away — that gun was illegal,” she added. “So we have to ask, where did the gun come from, beyond the individual who pulled the trigger?”
Robinson’s concerns appear to have resonated with many local residents; she says Citizens for Safety has swelled to over 1,000 members, due in part to growing anger at the city’s higher murder rate in recent years.(p2)
The Web site of Nancy Robinson's former Massachusetts Against Trafficking Handguns Coalition — now the revamped Citizens for Safety — includes information on the scope of the illegal gun problem, including a section aimed at debunking myths about possession of illicit firearms. More »
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laws even less tolerant of owners of illicit firearms. More »
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