Gun law a ‘common-sense’ step forward

Molly Malloy, left, leader of the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, chatted with U.S. Representative Katherine Clark before a gun violence prevention panel discussion sponsored by the congresswoman in Medford on Sept. 3. Molly Malloy, left, leader of the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, chatted with U.S. Representative Katherine Clark before a gun violence prevention panel discussion sponsored by the congresswoman in Medford on Sept. 3.

The day that Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill into law that tightened Massachusetts gun laws, self-described “accidental activist” Molly Malloy expressed her profound gratitude.

“With the stroke of Governor Patrick’s pen today, Massachusetts is now a leader for the rest of the nation in passing common-sense gun reform,” Malloy said in a statement after the signing on Aug. 13.

The mother of three from Boston is the leader of the Massachusetts chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Malloy, a stay-at-home mother with a background as a social worker, got involved in Moms Demand Action right after the 2012 massacre that took the lives of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

She said the shootings hit her especially hard because her oldest son was exactly the same age as many of the children killed that day.

Malloy was devastated. “This is not OK. I refuse to accept this,” Malloy remembers telling another mother in the blur after the massacre. “But I don’t know what to do about it.”

When her friend later told her about Moms Demand Action, which formed quickly after the crisis, Malloy immediately set to work with others in Massachusetts who chose to channel their grief by working as a team to push legislation that would close loopholes and otherwise improve the state’s gun laws.

Moms Demand Action now has a chapter in each state, with hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.

The bipartisan legislation that became law in Massachusetts — which already had some of the strictest gun laws in the country — was a milestone for Moms Demand Action and other grassroots groups that have either cropped up or found a stronger voice since the Sandy Hook shootings.

The new law, An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence, requires real-time background checks for all private gun sales and streamlines the licensing process.

It also brings Massachusetts into line with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System database, so courts are required to report those involuntarily committed for mental health and substance abuse treatment into the national database. The Commonwealth was one of only a handful of states that didn’t provide this information before the law was passed.

The law created a firearms trafficking unit within the state police and enhances sentences for existing crimes, such as gun-related slayings. It also requires school districts to have emergency response plans that include a direct means of communication between schools and local police and fire departments. Each district is required to have a school resource officer assigned by the superintendent and chief of police. In addition, the law requires schools to address the mental health needs of students and staff by stipulating suicide awareness and prevention training for school personnel.

Moms Demand Action is part of the umbrella group Everytown for Gun Safety, which describes itself as the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country.

Everytown, with more than 2 million supporters, also encompasses Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which was formed in 2006 when Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino — then the mayors of New York and Boston — created a coalition of 15 mayors who wanted to win support for gun prohibitions and policies, as well as get guns out of the hands of criminals.

Since then, Mayors Against Illegal Guns has grown to more than 1,000 current and former mayors, and Bloomberg earlier this year pledged to pour $50 million of his considerable fortune — plus his political clout — into the effort.

With Moms Demand Action’s immediate goal of passing legislation in Massachusetts met, the Massachusetts chapter focused on the national organization’s effort to visit town fairs, festivals and farmers’ markets over the summer in an effort to get 1 million people to pledge that they will vote for laws and political leaders who will work to end gun violence.

“We as Americans don’t have to tolerate more than 31,000 deaths from gun violence every year,” Malloy said. “Almost eight children and teenagers are shot and killed every day in our country.”

She said Moms Demand Action’s message to Congress is clear. “We want our elected officials to know that we want them to be as passionate about the safety of our communities as they are about the right to bear arms.”

Malloy said that while she occasionally feels guilty about being away from her children in order to attend forums or lobby for gun laws, she realizes she is doing the right thing.

“I have to show them how to be the change they want to see,” Malloy said.

She was surprised that even her youngest child seemed able to grasp what her mother is trying to accomplish.

Just heading off to preschool, she asked her mother, “Will the teachers keep the bad guys out of the school, mommy?”

For more information about gun safety organizations, visit www.momsdemandaction.org, www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org and www.everytown.org.