Call for Tougher Gun Control

The investigation continues into the accidental death of eight-year-old Laquarry Jefferson by his seven-year-old cousin.

The two boys were playing with an illegal gun in their Roxbury home when the shooting happened on Sunday night. Police have since questioned the cousin and his mother.

In the wake of the incident, Boston leaders are calling for tougher gun control laws. WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti reports.


MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: There are a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the death of Liquarry Jefferson. Reporters pressed Boston Mayor Tom Menino yesterday, asking, why haven't members of Jefferson's family been arrested for having an illegal gun in the house? That rankled the mayor.

MAYOR TOM MENINO: "The question you should be asking is, where did the gun come from? Why is everybody afraid to ask that question?"

CHAKRABARTI: When asked, Boston police wouldn't say where the gun came from. But John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, says roughly 60-percent of the illegal guns in Massachusetts originate out of state.

JOHN ROSENTHAL: "We are surrounded by states like Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and 29 other states that don't even require criminal background checks for guns."

CHAKRABARTI: Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms records put New Hampshire and Maine at the top of the list, accounting for 14-percent of the Massachusetts-bound illegal gun trade. In 2005, police recovered 893 illegal guns in Boston, up more than 100 from the year before.

And, on the question of who owned the gun that killed Jefferson? Rosenthal says, it's nearly impossible to trace gun ownership.

ROSENTHAL: "And there is no way we are going to stop the flow of illegal guns into Massachusetts, until Congress finds its backbone and passes uniform national gun laws."

CHAKRABARTI: That's why Mayor Tom Menino says he's lobbying against the so-called "Tiahrt Amendments", federal riders that restrict cities' access to ATF trace data on illegal guns. Menino took aim at the amendments' strongest supporters.

MENINO: "But why does one organization control the mayhem in our streets? Why does the NRA spend $220 million a year on this issue?"

ANDREW ARULANANDAM: "I'd like to remind the mayor to either read the legislation, or quit misleading Bostonians."

CHAKRABARTI: Andrew Arulanandam is a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, in Washington.

ARULANANDAM: "Any local, state, federal or even international law enforcement agency, will have access to any and all trace information in the course of a bon fide criminal investigation."

CHAKRABARTI: On the state level, Massachusetts already has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation. It's a felony to carry an illegal weapon on the streets. Get caught, and you serve a minimum 18 month sentence. But, get caught with an illegal gun in your house, like the one that killed Jefferson, and you simply pay a $500 fine, according to Boston city councilor Michael Flaherty. He's filing a home-rule petition today to close that loophole.

MICHAEL FLAHERTY: "We cannot legislate parenting, but we can legislate whether or not you can have an illegal gun in your home and that's what this does."

CHAKRABARTI: Still, many city residents believe it may not keep the weapons out of their lives. In a recent survey of Boston public high schoolers, half the boys said it would be easy to get their hands on a gun.

For WBUR, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti.

This program aired on June 27, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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Meghna Chakrabarti Host, On Point
Meghna Chakrabarti is the host of On Point.



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