“This American Life” is one of my favorite shows on National Public Radio. This weekend the title of the show was “You have the right to remain silent.” That title really grabbed me. I had just come back from a conference day with 350 other Episcopalians where we participated in a variety of workshops on the topic of how to “Be Peace” in our communities. Working for Peace and non-violence is a central call for our Diocese (184 parishes in eastern Massachusetts) as one of our own young people, Jorge Fuentes, was murdered in his Dorchester neighborhood about this time last year. In the wake of his death we hear God calling to us to respond with efforts to bring peace through personal and systemic change.
One of the workshops I attended Saturday was run by representatives of an organization called Citizens for Safety (www.wheredidtheguncomefrom.com). Two of the women who presented the workshop referred to themselves as Lipstick Women — LIPSTICK being the acronym for Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killings. One of these two women had a son killed by gun violence in their neighborhood.
During the course of this hour-long workshop our presenters shared information about the source of guns used in inner-city Boston violence that made me take note. We learned that many of the guns involved are purchased not by the persons who use them, but by “straw purchasers.” A straw purchaser is someone who buys a gun on behalf of someone who cannot pass the required background checks. We also learned that though Massachusetts has fairly strict regulations on gun purchasing — including background checks, registration and testing — neighboring states such as New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont have much looser laws that do not require background checks. Here’s a startling statistic — 60 percent of guns used in Boston crimes come from out of state.