Following House sit-in, Mass. leaders rally for gun violence reform
US Representative Katherine Clark, a leader of last week’s House sit-in, brought her campaign for gun control and background check legislation to Massachusetts Thursday, rallying with other political leaders outside the State House.
“We are America, we are Massachusetts. We sit in the cradle of innovation,” Clark told the crowd gathered in front of the State House steps. “We know that we can balance our civil liberties, our rights under the Constitution, with common-sense measures that protect our families and our children.”
She was joined by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Attorney General Maura Healey, state House Speaker Robert DeLeo, and other elected officials.
Near the end of the rally, Clark broke the news to the audience that US House Speaker Paul Ryan would allow a vote on one of the measures, which would prevent people on terrorism watch lists from buying guns.
“I am delighted that Speaker Ryan has put this up to a vote,” Clark said. “And we will be back, because that’s a job half done. We know that we can have universal background checks.”
The speakers urged Congress to consider all proposed gun-control measures, including the watch list provision, which would also ban people on the federal no-fly list from buying guns.
“If you’re too dangerous to fly, then you’re probably too dangerous to own a gun,” DeLeo said.
Clark and other speakers highlighted Massachusetts gun laws, which ban the sale of assault weapons and large-capacity magazines possessed after 1994. They noted statistics from the Violence Policy Center, which in 2014 showed Massachusetts had the third-lowest firearm death rate in the country.
DeLeo called the 2014 reform of the state’s firearm laws a “national model,” and “one of the toughest bills I’d ever been involved with.”
Others, including Walsh and Healey, criticized the trafficking of guns into Massachusetts from neighboring states, including New Hampshire and Maine.
“In Boston and Massachusetts we are leading the way,” Walsh said. “We have seen gun violence go down, but we still are burying too many people in our city and in our state because of gun violence.
“This is a national crisis. We need a national solution and national support,” Walsh continued.
Behind the speakers, volunteers with Everytown for Gun Safety, MassEquality, and a handful of state legislators held signs urging gun-control measures. Most signs were rainbow colored to support the LGBT community after a gunman killed 49 people inside a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12.
Some signs displayed the names and ages of those killed by guns in Boston this year. Clark mentioned some of those victims in her speech, including 17-year-old Raekwon Brown, who was killed outside Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester on June 8.
Clark, together with Senator Elizabeth Warren, US Representative John Lewis and other House Democrats, staged a sit-in in the House chamber last week to push for votes on gun-control legislation. Lewis credits Clark with the idea.
The other speakers Thursday commended Clark for her role in the sit-in, which lasted 26 hours and was broadcast to millions through C-SPAN. She was referred to as a “national hero” and the “Pride of the Commonwealth.”
“I got home from working, turned on the TV … and I saw Congresswoman Clark on the floor taking over the chamber,” Walsh told the crowd, to applause. “That’s how you get things done: by shutting it down!”