Lowell Police Crack Down on Illegal Guns, Irresponsible Owners
LOWELL -- Kelly Richardson’s biggest fear almost resulted in tragedy.
An 11-year-old boy carrying a loaded gun in a school on Sept. 13, showing it off to numerous students.
“Guns inside a school is very, very dangerous,” the newly sworn-in Lowell police superintendent said in the wake of the Sullivan Middle School incident.
Later that day, the .22-caliber handgun was “fired indiscriminately” by a 14-year-old boy at Back Central’s Rotary Park in front of other juveniles. Luckily, there were no injuries or damage.
But how can such a scary episode, involving a juvenile holding a loaded gun, be prevented in the future?
Last week, Richardson pointed to responsible gun ownership as a key.
“People who have firearms in their homes need to make sure they’re properly secured,” he said.
The Police Department’s initial investigation determined that the 11-year-old boy’s father had hidden the illegal gun at home before heading to jail. The boy’s mother didn’t know the gun was in the house, so she won’t be charged.
State law requires guns not in use, with the exception of primitive firearms, to be stored or kept “secured in a locked container or equipped with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device,” to prevent unauthorized use.
The Police Department is continuing its efforts to seize illegal guns, Richardson said.
“The more guns we get off the street, the safer people are in the city,” he said.
Since the start of 2018, the Police Department has recovered 64 illegal guns. Those guns have been recovered mostly through search warrants and motor vehicle stops.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said her office has already begun speaking with Lowell community leaders to move toward “implementing a multi-pronged and unified approach within the city” when it comes to gun violence.
“As a victim of gun violence, I am personally committed to mitigating the risks associated with firearms including focusing on prevention and addressing underlying contributors to gun violence, such as risk factors for youth and the connection to illicit drug transactions,” she said in a statement.
As a young lawyer in 1980, Ryan was the victim of a violent armed robbery that resulted in the murder of her then-boyfriend.
She expects that the model her office creates in Lowell will serve as a blueprint for the rest of Middlesex County.
“We know that both stopping the flow of illegal firearms into our communities and ensuring that lawful gun owners are complying with the rules and regulations already in place are critical to preventing juveniles and others who are unlicensed to possess firearms from gaining possession of them,” she added in the statement.
Massachusetts has the most effective guns laws in the nation, said John Rosenthal, the founder of Stop Handgun Violence.
However, this recent incident in Lowell is “no surprise” because illegal guns come in from out of state, as well as people violating the safe-storage requirement, he said.
“I’m a gun owner, and my gun is stored safely,” Rosenthal said. “It’s critical that parents lock up their firearms to reduce access for kids. There’s no reason an 11-year-old should have access to a firearm.”
It’s easy to transport illegal guns from other states to Massachusetts, Rosenthal said. It’s crucial that the nation’s gun laws become tougher to prevent that, he added.
Firearm safety education is key moving forward, said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners’ Action League of Massachusetts. Parents need to take a proactive approach with this, he added.
“Kids need to understand these aren’t toys so they won’t do foolish things with them,” Wallace said. “It’s imperative we provide firearm safety education.”
Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.