State Rep. Sánchez holds gun violence forum

Local state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez convened a forum on Oct. 9 to discuss gun violence and ways to prevent it. The event was also meant to draw attention to several gun control bills moving through the State House.

About 100 people, including anti-gun activists, attended the forum at the Anna M. Community Center in the Bromley-Heath housing development. Several elected officials spoke or attended the forum, including local state Rep. Liz Malia, local state Sen. Sonia Chang-Diáz, Suffolk County District Attorney Dan Conley and Suffolk County Sheriff Steven Tompkins. Boston mayoral candidate Marty Walsh stopped by the event.

Kim Odom, who works with Citizens for Safety (CFS), a Jamaica Plain nonprofit aimed at reducing gun violence, spoke about losing her 13-year-old son Steven in a case of mistaken identity during a gang dispute in Dorchester in 2007.

“That night changed the direction of our family,” she said.

Odom talked about how when her son attended the Timilty School, he was in a peace program. Months after he was killed, his journal from that program was found. Odom said her son had written in the journal that, “It’s a shame somebody gets killed or shot every day. That’s why we seriously need peace.” She said her son, without realizing it, was writing about a public health epidemic.

Odom discussed the work she had done with CFS, including a program called “LIPSTICK,” or “Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop to Inner-City Killing.” The program teaches about women who often buy or store guns for boyfriends, husbands or acquaintances who can’t buy or possess them legally because they are felons. LIPSTICK educates women about the dangers of doing so.

“We need to understand the deeper depths of what is going on,” Odom said about gun violence. She said the community needs to raise “our moral consciousness.”

Sánchez spoke about growing up in the Mission Main housing development in Mission Hill during the 1970s and 1980s and witnessing gun violence. He said that is “still going on here and now.” He said that the state has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, but gun violence is “still a huge problem,” noting that 143 shootings have occurred in the last three months.

“This meeting is about all of us coming together,” Sánchez.

He said he wanted to make the forum about the attendees and said they should tell elected officials what legislation to support.

Malia praised the forum, saying, “Conversation is the opposite of what happens when someone picks up a gun.”

She relayed an anecdote about how 12 years ago, she was at a community meeting near Forest Hills and heard gunfire. Malia went outside and saw a young wounded man on ground who said he couldn’t feel his legs.

“A lot of people in this room have been involved in situations like that,” she said.

Malia said that gun violence involves a lot of issues, including mental health. She talked about needing to define mental illness and what signs to look for. Malia also said that the gun laws need to be improved.

“This is where the solutions start,” she said.

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