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Search for solutions focuses on getting guns off streets

With another child killed in Boston, officials, ministers, and activists are grappling with what, if anything, can be done to stop the shootings.

Many of those who have spent exasperating years seeking answers say there are no simple ways to prevent violence such as Friday’s fatal shooting of a 9-year-old boy by his 14-year-old brother in their Mattapan home, especially with a society and media awash in guns and bloodshed.

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“There’s just a lot of insanity in this,” said Emmett Folgert, executive director of the Dorchester Youth Collaborative.

He and others suggested the city’s new administration urge parents to search their children’s rooms for guns, start a hotline to make it easier for gang members to seek help, and press police to share information to enable residents to do more to root out potential sources of violence.

“Doesn’t this tell every parent to go toss apart their teenager’s room to see if there’s a gun in there?” Folgert said. “You have to hope that parents doublecheck to make sure there’s nothing dangerous in their house.”

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The shooting sparked comparisons with the 2007 killing of Liquarry Jefferson , Jr., a first-grader shot by his 7-year-old cousin while they were playing with a 9mm handgun that an older cousin left inside a dresser in their apartment.

In that case, the victim’s 15-year-old half-brother, Jayquan McConnico, and mother, Lakeisha Gadson, were both prosecuted on charges that included some relating to allowing an illegal weapon to fall into the hands of children. Gadson was acquitted by a Suffolk Superior Court jury of the major charges she faced, while McConnico was sentenced to five years in the custody of the Department of Youth Services.

The Rev. Eugene F. Rivers III, cofounder of the TenPoint Coalition and director of the Ella J. Baker House in Dorchester, said part of the frustration many feel is a result of the “never again” rhetoric that often follows gun violence.

“It soars beyond the possibility of reality when we hear ‘one child is one child too many’ or ‘this can’t happen again,’ ” he said Friday. “We are going to have homicides in the city. The question is not if, but how many.”

He called for a reevaluation of street worker outreach programs, diverting youth early, before they enter gangs, and intensifying collaboration between community organizations and law enforcement, which would increase intelligence sharing.

US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said her office and federal agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives have been working with local authorities to trace the origins of illegal guns on city streets. She noted that a New Hampshire man, Sean Meola, 42, was sentenced Friday in federal court in Boston to 70 months in prison, as part of a gun-running investigation.

She said she recently spoke with Boston Police Commissioner William Evans about guns on the streets and offered help in getting the number down. “I think we’re trying to work as a team, and trying to figure out how to do that,” she said.

Residents need to do more to detect guns coming into their home and turn them in to police, Ortiz said. “You have to get the message out into the community that we share a sense of responsibility. The solution is not just law enforcement. The community has to be involved, do what they can, and cooperate with police.”

State Representative Russell Holmes, a Democrat who represents parts of Dorchester, said he has worked with Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley on a bill that aims to better track firearms used in shootings or found at crime scenes.

“It would put a unique stamp onto the firing pin of a weapon, so that any ballistics evidence would be matched to a specific gun and a specific transaction,’’ said Jake Wark, a spokesman for Conley.

But the Rev. William Dickerson, pastor of Greater Love Tabernacle Church in Dorchester, said legislation can only accomplish so much.

“This is a spiritual battle we’re fighting,” he said. “We need to teach children about the dangers of guns, and more importantly, to respect the human dignity of human life.”

The Rev. Bruce Wall, senior pastor of Global Ministries Christian Church in Dorchester, said he is sick of hearing of people claiming that someone broke into their house and stole their guns.

“A lot of us feel frustrated, like we can’t do anything,” he said. “What we need is more information about people we believe are violating the law. We could publicize their phony claims and out them.”

Some potential solutions, said the Rev. Miniard Culpepper, pastor of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, include a city hotline for gang members who want to find a new path and finding more jobs for youth.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of this,” he said.

He also called for greater cooperation among community leaders, police, and city agencies.

“We need to saturate the city with much more of a coordinated effort than we have now,” he said.

Milton J. Valencia, Meghan E. Irons, and John R. Ellement contributed to this story. David Abel can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @davabel.
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