One year after 26 people were killed in Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., activists and lawmakers carried balloons in the school’s colors, green and white, into a Boston church and talked about gun laws.
Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh, US Representative John Tierney, and some members of the state Legislature spoke to about 150 people at First Church Boston in the Back Bay, many of them members of the 37 groups that comprise the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence .
The service was held in memory of those killed the morning of Dec. 14, 2012, when Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and used a firearm his mother owned to shoot and kill 20 children and six educators. He had shot and killed his mother before going to the school.
No large public memorial services were planned in Newtown on Saturday to give residents the opportunity for peaceful reflection, but the Associated Press reported that bells at St. Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church rang 26 times Saturday morning as the victims’ names were read.
Much of the conversation in First Church Boston on Saturday was focused on proposed restrictions for buying guns, both through background checks for legal purchases and ways to prevent illegal trafficking.
Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, cochairman of the national coalition Mayors Against Illegal Guns, did not attend the service, but said in a statement that he has “never before been so outraged” at national lawmakers who have not tightened gun laws this year.
“We must not give up the fight for common sense gun legislation,” Menino said. “The last thing America needs today is silence.”
Boston has had 39 homicides so far this year, according to Boston Police Department figures; 32 of them involved a firearm.
At First Church Boston, state representatives Hank Naughton, David P. Linsky, and Tom Conroy told the crowd about proposed legislation to amend the state’s already-stringent gun laws in order to prevent gun trafficking and gather more data about firearms used in shootings.
Walsh told the crowd about one of his campaign workers, who lost a friend in a shooting this summer, and then Walsh turned his attention to a few mothers of teens killed by gun violence sitting at a table in the back of the room.
“I want to let you know that you have a friend, just like you had a friend with Tom Menino,” Walsh told them. “I will do whatever I need to do.”
One of those mothers, Tina Chéry, who founded the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute after her 15-year-old son was caught in a gang shootout in 1993, later said she was glad to see so many people addressing gun violence. But she said she was also disheartened there were only a few people of color in the room.
More should be done, Chéry said, to bridge the divide between predominantly white suburban cities and towns with little awareness of violence in urban communities of color and the neighborhoods where shootings are more commonplace.
“Race has a lot to do with it, but we don’t always like to talk about it,” Chéry said. “Murder is murder, death is death. How do we talk about healing and reconciliation where we know it’s needed? . . . That’s why we’re here.”