Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lt. Governor Murray Testifies in Support of Anti-Crime Package

Law Enforcement Officials and Local and National Activists Join in Support

BOSTON – Thursday, June 21, 2007 – Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray testified today before the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of House Bill 3991, An Act to Reduce Gun Violence and in support of House Bill 501, An Act to Enhance Information Sharing Concerning At-Risk Juveniles.

“Gun violence claims lives and causes immeasurable pain to the families of victims. We simply cannot allow this spiraling violence to continue, “ Lt. Governor Murray told the committee.

House Bill 3391 would enhance the prohibitions on the sale of illegal guns and initiates the process of ending gun violence in 3 significant ways:

The bill proposes to shrink the supply of illegal guns, by limiting gun buyers to one firearm purchase per month, reducing gun trafficking by “straw purchasers” who purchase firearms for prohibited buyers.
The legislation also would empower prosecutors to charge, and judges to sentence, those who possess a firearm during a crime of violence with tougher penalties.
The bill also proposes to make defendants charged with possession of a firearm eligible for detention pending trial and those charged with a felony involving the use of a firearm and the use of physical force presumptively ineligible for bail pending trial.

House Bill 501, An Act to Enhance Information Sharing Concerning At-Risk Juveniles, would ease current restrictions to allow a wide range of government agencies – school officials, juvenile court personnel representatives from district attorneys’ offices, DSS case workers, and others – to meet, share information and devise a comprehensive, coordinated response for meeting the needs of at-risk juveniles.

Lt. Governor Murray was joined by a host of public safety professionals and local and national experts on gun violence, all of whom expressed support for the Administration’s proposals.

In expressing support for the administration’s proposal to limit gun purchases, Daniel Vice of the Brady Campaign to Stop Handgun Violence stated, “By limiting firearm purchases to one per person per month, a gunrunner is unable to obtain many handguns at one time, dramatically reducing the profitability of gunrunning. Quite simply, these laws put most gun traffickers, and their straw purchasers, out of business."

John Rosenthal, of Stop Handgun Violence, added, "I support and applaud the Governor's anti-gun trafficking bill. Legitimate gun owners like myself recognize that this common sense legislation does not infringe on our constitutional rights but will deny criminal access to multiple gun straw purchasing. This bill will effectively help close off the pipeline of guns to the criminal market and will continue Massachusetts role as the national leader in gun violence prevention."

"Anyone in the possession of an unlicensed firearm is a threat to public safety, and this bill gives law enforcement another tool to take those who commit violent crimes with unlawfully possessed guns off of our streets," Middlesex County District Attorney Leone said. "By taking these people off of the streets, we are better able to protect witnesses from fear and intimidation as well as prevent additional crimes from being committed."

Brookline Chief of Police Daniel O’ Leary, on behalf of the Major City Chiefs Association, also expressed strong support of the Administration’s anti-crime package. "I applaud the Governor's efforts to have legislation enacted that will reduce gun violence, enhance public safety through pre-trial detention of dangerous felons, and help prevent crime through enhanced information sharing amongst law enforcement and social service workers who work with at risk youth,” said Chief O’Leary. The Major City Chiefs association is comprised of 30 police chiefs from Massachusetts communities with populations of more than 40 thousand residents, and who have more than 75 sworn officers serving in their police department.

Nancy Robinson, of Massachusetts Against Trafficking Handguns (MATH), added, “The MATH Coalition asks, ‘Where did the gun come from?’ after every shooting to get to the root of the problem with illegal gun trafficking. A major source of crime guns are traffickers who buy handguns in bulk, the way some of us stock up on paper towels at Costco. The Governor's bill will limit how many handguns traffickers can buy at one time and work to stop gun trafficking in its tracks.”

Secretary of Public Safety Kevin M. Burke noted that this proposal is part of a broad effort the Administration has initiated to address the Commonwealth’s crime problems. “Passage of this proposal would strengthen the efforts being undertaken by the Administration through the Anti-Crime Council. The Patrick/ Murray administration also secured supplemental funding for new officers and for a second round of Shannon Grant funding, and this legislation would strengthen the community policing work being undertaken by local law enforcement and our community-based partners.”

The Anti-Crime Council was established by Governor Patrick in April of 2007, meets monthly, and is currently focused on the issue of guns and gang violence. The Executive Office of Public Safety is currently accepting applications for the Charles E. Shannon Jr. Community Safety Initiative grant program (“Shannon Grants”) . This is an $11 million grant program to support regional and multi-disciplinary approaches to combat gang violence through coordinated programs for prevention and intervention, law enforcement approaches, prosecution, and reintegration. The contracts for current Shannon grant recipients run until September of 2007.

Attached is a full list of the people and organizations who testified in support of the Patrick/Murray Administration’s anti-crime package.

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