Industry Target of Boston Gun Summit
by Joseph P. Tartaro
It was another link in the anti-gun chain being forged by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, both of whom are trying to revive the national anti-gun crusade which has been short on action, support and funding in recent months.
The event was the Boston Community Summit on Youth and Handgun Violence held in the city’s Northeastern University campus on Mar. 10.
The invitation-only, all-day event featured Menino, his police commissioner, Kathleen O’Toole, Dr. Jack Green, dean of Northeastern’s College of Criminal Justice, Dr. Richard Freeland, president of Northeastern, and a host of other academics and community activists.
The keynote speaker was Robert Ricker, an attorney who used to work for the National Rifle Association, later the American Shooting Sports Council, and now is a regular witness for the anti-gun side in city lawsuits. Ricker is also executive director of the American Hunters and Shooters Association, a relatively new anti-gun organization that promotes itself as pro-Second Amendment.
According to Gun Week sources at the meeting, Menino and O’Toole, who were on the opening panel of the day, made it clear that they don’t like guns and they blame the gun industry for their city’s problems with gangs, drugs and violence.
“Guns are simply too easy to get,” Menino said, “and they allow those who get them to kill so casually.”
The summit painted Boston’s problems with gangs and violence as a city-wide problem, but the evidence is that it is focused in a few sections where gangs, poverty and violence go hand-in-hand.
Menino, O’Toole and other speakers blamed other New England states, particularly New Hampshire, for their problem with illegal guns, but at least a third of the illegal guns confiscated by police were originally purchased in Massachusetts.
Like Bloomberg, Menino blames others for the problems in his city, and the chief target is the firearms industry itself.
That was the chief theme of Ricker when he keynoted the summit during his luncheon address.
Ricker, who had been a witness for the plaintiffs in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) suit against the gun industry in federal district court in Brooklyn, even quoted from the judge in that case which was eventually dismissed.
During his keynote address, Ricker pursued themes he has used in testimony and media interviews. He is touted as an insider who saw the light.
According to Adrian Walker, writing in The Boston Globe the day before the summit, Ricker’s epiphany came after Springfield, MA-based Smith & Wesson reached what was hailed as a landmark agreement with the Clinton Administration in 2000. The company, facing multiple liability lawsuits, agreed to put safety locks on guns, improve technology to prevent unauthorized usage, regulate its dealer network, and stop selling guns at gun shows where background checks weren’t conducted.
Ricker’s said he saw the boycott that followed in the wake of the deal with the Clinton White House against S&W, then owned by a British conglomerate, “as bad for America, bad for sportsmen, and decided it was time to speak out on the issue.”
Ricker has been criticizing the industry and the NRA at every turn and advising Menino on how Boston can stop the flow of illegal firearms?
“I began to see how the industry could and wouldn’t do more to keep guns safer and out of the wrong hands,” Ricker said.
It isn’t that he is opposed to gun ownership, he told The Globe. But he has soured on an industry that he claims refuses to distinguish between hunting rifles and handguns.
“The gun rights extremists have created a situation where law enforcement is in jeopardy, urban areas have become shooting galleries,” Ricker said. “More needs to be done about illegal gun trafficking and keeping people safe.”
Menino and Bloomberg are formulating plans for an eight-member task force that would hold hearings across the country on handguns. Menino said yesterday the two of them hope to make an announcement detailing their plan next month.
In the meanwhile, it was announced at the Boston summit, that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will be assigning 10 agents to assist the Boston Police Department in gun traces.
Among those invited to the summit were members of practically every anti-gun group in the Boston area, but not of the national groups. But among those invited were gang members and high school students, many of whom got to speak later during the workshop sessions held after the keynote luncheon in the Curry Student Center.
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