The Boston City Council's last meeting of 2012 began and ended up with moments of silence and reflection about the Newtown school tragedy. And in between those silent moments, the council looked to address gun violence.
On Wednesday, District 8 City Councilor Mike Ross called on the council to support U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, in her reintroduction and support of a national ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004.
"After the horrendous violence we saw on Friday in Newtown ... I thought we as a city council need to do something," Ross said.
Ross said he supports the legislation that would ban automatic assault weapons, as well as minimize the size of gun magazine clips.
"Other cities have signed on, and it's giving her credibility on why it should move forward ... Boston needs to be a part of it," he added.
Ross referenced Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg's work as the co-chairs of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Menino was one of 750 mayors this week calling for President Barack Obama to reform the nation’s gun laws.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns proposed three action items in the wake of the Newtown mass shooting:
- Mandate criminal background checks on all U.S. gun sales;
- Work to get military-style weapons and high-capacity magazines off streets;
- Enact measures to make gun trafficking a federal crime.
District 4 City Councilor Charles Yancey said it was important for the Boston City Council to go on the record in support of the expired assault weapons ban. Yancey recalled how guns decreased in the 1980s when the ban was first issued.
District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson said he has gone to numerous funerals related to youth violence since being elected in 2011.
"We're seeing an increase in the number of assault rifles. You don’t need 20 bullets—that’s not a sport when that occurs. We have to act. We are legislators. We must act."
Jackson also suggested that some of the city councilors should go to Washington, D.C., when Feinstein introduces the bill.
The council supported it unanimously, and a letter was to be sent to Feinstein in support of her efforts.
Ross also took some time to address a state grant of $125,000 that will support Boston Police Department's Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention program to specifically enhance the Youth Violence Prevention Plan. Ross said the money would go to assess the effectiveness of the city's youth violence prevention programs.
Ross spoke of a recent trip he took with fellow councilors Ayanna Pressley and Felix Arroyo to Harlem. They met with Jeffrey Canada, CEO of Harlem's Children Zone, and he said that organization spends $2 million annually in assessing effectiveness of what programs work, so they know where to put resources.
"This (grant) actually represents that. Instead of giving out funds to groups we think are doing best in that area. [...] We need to have better guides of who’s doing the work based upon analysis, data. [...] This represents a continued effort. If you’re keeping our kids safe and healthy then we have to stay with you," Ross said.