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Massachusetts students, parents lead anti-gun town halls

April 7, 2018

BOSTON (AP) — Students and parents in Massachusetts inspired by gun violence survivors in Parkland, Florida, held town hall meetings across the state on Saturday to discuss firearm policy with legislators.

The five meetings were part of 120 “Town Halls for Our Lives” held across the U.S..

The local events were organized by creators of the recent March for Our Lives in Boston and the group Stop Handgun Violence. Democratic U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark and Jim McGovern were among the officials who participated.

Student organizer Charlotte Lowell, of Andover High School, said that although she is not old enough to vote, she is wants to create “the change our classrooms and communities deserve.” She helped organize a 30-member town hall in Lowell.

For some parents, the fight to get guns off the streets is deeply personal. Monica Cannon-Grant, 37, is the mother of five children, including two sons, ages 19 and 20.

She said she and one of her sons were threatened by a shooter in 2015 as they were getting out a car near their home in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. The man’s gun jammed and they escaped, she said.

Cannon said there is a constant flow of illegal guns in her community and that residents are “moving targets.” She said although gun fatalities have declined in some neighborhoods, they haven’t dropped in hers.

Boston police department data shows there was an increase of victims of fatal shootings in the city from 158 to 186 people in 2017.

Cannon said businesses and schools are receiving grants for violence prevention training and that local legislators should follow up to see how the funds are being used.

“We need to talk about the people of color in Mattapan, Roxbury and Dorchester who face this (violence) every day,” said Cannon, who was one of 100 people at a Boston-area meeting in Roxbury.

Student organizer Jack Torres of Somerville High School agreed that people of color need to take the forefront in steering gun control discussions. “We need elected officials to listen to their constituent — not just one group — but a diverse group of constituents,” the 15-year-old said.

He and other students called for the passage of a Massachusetts bill that would prevent firearm access to dangerous or suicidal people through a one-year protection order obtained in court.

Recent student activism in Massachusetts and around the country was catalyzed by survivors of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida who have spoken openly against gun violence.

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