Thirteen mayors from communities north of Boston are lending their voices to the national legislative effort to reduce gun violence through tougher rules on firearms.
They are among the 27 city leaders who make up the Massachusetts delegation of the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of about 850 mayors nationwide that is pushing for gun reforms.
With debate intensifying in Washington over potential gun-control legislation, 15 of the Massachusetts mayors met last Thursday in the office of Boston’s mayor, Thomas M. Menino, who cofounded the national coalition in 2006 with Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York. Menino leads the Massachusetts contingent.
Mayor William F. Scanlon Jr. of Beverly said the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., last July “put me over the edge” on the gun issue. He joined the coalition just before the December shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Conn., that took the lives of 20 children and six adults.
“Among civilized countries, our record on gun violence is just horrible. . . . So there must be opportunities to do it better,” Scanlon said.
A former gun owner, Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone of Somerville said, “I believe in the Second Amendment. But I also believe in responsible, sensible gun ownership. I see no conflict between the two.”
“As municipal leaders, one of our primary goals is to promote the public health, safety, and welfare of our communities,” he said of the mayors. As such, he said, they have a responsibility to advocate for measures that put an end to gun violence.
“This is not an attack on the Second Amendment. It’s a fight to protect our way of life in the country,” said Curtatone, who joined the coalition shortly after its formation.
The bipartisan coalition is advocating for three key legislative priorities: requiring every gun buyer to pass a criminal background check; banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines; and making gun trafficking a federal crime, according to Emily Ellison, a spokeswoman for Menino.
“Those are their three focuses in light of [Vice President Joe Biden’s gun violence task force] and the sense of urgency in Congress to take action on the issue of gun violence,” she said, noting that Menino vowed to continue his efforts with the coalition in his recent state of the city address.
Other area mayors taking part in the coalition are Ted Bettencourt of Peabody, Gary Christenson of Malden, Robert J. Dolan of Melrose, Kimberley L. Driscoll of Salem, Scott D. Galvin of Woburn, Carlo DeMaria Jr. of Everett, Michael J. McGlynn of Medford, Patrick Murphy of Lowell, Donna D. Holaday of Newburyport, Thatcher W. Kezer III of Amesbury, and Daniel Rizzo of Revere.
Eleven of the Massachusetts delegation members joined since the Newtown tragedy, including DeMaria, Dolan, Galvin, Murphy, and Holaday.
“Melrose is a quite safe community — it’s almost a throwback to the time when people still [left] their doors unlocked and their keys in the car,” Dolan said. “But I want to be clear with people that this is not just a Brockton issue or a Boston issue or a Somerville issue,” referring to gun violence.
“It’s a Melrose issue, it’s a Winchester issue, it’s a suburban issue,” he said, noting that his city had a gun incident just last month when shots from a vehicle were fired at a multi-unit house on West Wyoming Avenue. No one was hurt. “It’s important to state that Newtown looks just like Melrose, Aurora looks just like Melrose.”
“There are just too many guns, there are not enough universal federal laws that govern guns that cross state borders,” Dolan said. “And we have a culture of violence that needs to change. Something is broken and that something can affect a small community like Melrose.”
The meeting in Menino’s office came two days after the Jan. 29 incident in Malden in which the owner of a skateboard shop, Shawn Clark, 39, was fatally shot in broad daylight outside his store.
“There have been far too many tragedies and lives taken — one just this past week in my city,” Christenson, Malden’s mayor, said by e-mail. “I believe a united front in developing preventive measures will go a long way in addressing the senseless violence facing so many communities.”
The legislative proposals the coalition is promoting are “common sense solutions that can help communities better tackle illegal access to guns and violent crimes,” said Christensen, who joined the coalition shortly after taking office in January 2012.
He said he also backs state Attorney General Martha Coakley’s proposed legislation “to modernize the existing Massachusetts wiretap statute so that contemporary forms of communication such as cellphones and the Internet can be considered. I believe this needed reform will ensure that law enforcement is better equipped to investigate and prosecute crimes involving street, gang, and gun violence.”
Rizzo, in a statement, said: “As mayor, my absolute first and top priority is to ensure the safety and security of all Revere residents. Not only as mayor, but as a husband and father, I know that we all share the same concerns regarding crime and crime prevention. I joined Mayors Against Illegal Guns in order to keep my promise to the people of Revere — that I will do everything within my power to keep them safe.”
Kezer said that he signed on to the coalition shortly after it was formed by Menino. “I don’t have the challenges that he has in Boston so if I can support him in this effort by just being part of that group, I’m happy to do so.”
“I think it’s a national issue that we need to resolve,” Kezer added of gun violence. “I’m chairman of the School Committee in Amesbury and I want to make sure that our kids are safe.”
John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.