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Of Sisyphus and guns

Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden says despite Massachusetts being a national leader in reducing gun violence, the lack of a national policy on gun purchasing means police and prosecutors in and around Boston can only do so much.

Suffolk Attorney Kevin HaydenJessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Mondays are always the busiest days for Suffolk County prosecutors, with the weekend caseload of violence and tragedy and lives gone wrong landing all at once.

It was no different on Monday, March 13.

That day, Jared Roach, all of 18, was arraigned in the Roxbury Division of Boston Municipal Court after police found him allegedly carrying a loaded handgun during a traffic stop.

At the same time, Rasheed Avinger, 29, was arraigned in the Dorchester court after police saw him allegedly waving a gun, gave chase, and recovered a 9 mm handgun in an alley where he was hiding.


After a relatively quiet Tuesday, two more gun cases on Wednesday: While Tordan Defoe, 33, appeared in the East Boston court, charged with carrying a large capacity firearm, Devonje Goffigan-Williams, 23, was arraigned in the Dorchester court after Boston police allegedly found a handgun in his waistband with one round in the chamber and 14 more in the magazine.

Five years ago, Goffigan-Williams, then 18, was in the same court facing gun charges. A judge threw the gun possession charge out. But last week, Judge Margaret Albertson ordered Goffigan-Williams held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing April 12.

On Thursday, Kenneth Madden, 26, of Reading, appeared in Chelsea District Court, and, like Goffigan-Williams and Defoe, was charged with having a large-capacity firearm. Madden was already facing gun charges in Middlesex County after he allegedly fired a shot into the air during a fight outside a late-night restaurant in Harvard Square. Judge Kareem Morgan revoked his bail in the Cambridge case and ordered Madden held until a dangerousness hearing Wednesday.

The work week for Suffolk prosecutors ended Friday, when Stephen Freeman, 33, was charged with murder in the shooting death of Terrell Banks, 27, outside Slade’s Bar and Grill in Roxbury.


There is one common theme in all these cases: None of the men charged was licensed to carry a firearm. But they had no trouble buying a gun, somewhere, off somebody.

So, after a week that should have produced some level of satisfaction, Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden instead felt overcome with frustration. Boston police took 890 guns off the street last year. But all the good police work to seize those guns, all the prosecutions, are overshadowed by the reality that no matter how many guns they grab, there’s an unlimited supply flowing in from out of state.

“The patchwork approach to gun purchasing regulations is a big problem, impacting even states like ours which has stronger regulation,” Hayden told me. “If you look at other industrialized nations, they have a unified approach on purchasing regulations.”

Not coincidentally, they also have far less gun violence.

Last year, after combing through records from 2021, Hayden’s office found that more than three-quarters of the illegally held firearms used in crimes in and around Boston came from other states. Most came in from Maine, New Hampshire, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. Only 23 percent of those guns originated in Massachusetts.

At the time, in July, Hayden remarked, “There’s a lethal river of steel flowing from northern and southern states onto the streets of Boston, and our neighborhoods are suffering from it. When one state’s extreme interpretation of Second Amendment rights causes extreme suffering in another state it becomes a problem for all Americans.”


Unfortunately, many Americans, particularly those in those aforementioned states to the north and south, and the politicians they elect, don’t agree with Hayden.

Hayden said President Biden’s executive order last week, which increases the number of background checks for gun purchases, is helpful. But comprehensive, national reform has to come from Congress.

The chances that a Congress where almost all Republicans and even a few Democrats resist meaningful reforms on purchasing weapons will suddenly become animated about this are slim and none.

Kevin Hayden, the Sisyphus of Suffolk County, says his people will keep pushing the boulder that is gun violence up the city on a hill. One day, some day, he hopes and dreams, it will be less likely to roll back.

Kevin Cullen is a Globe reporter and columnist who roams New England. He can be reached at