Rosenthal, co-founder of Stop Handgun Violence, addresses Lesley
Wednesday, February 06, 2013
“That’s basically a 9/11 attack every month,” he said. “Eighty-seven Americans who woke up today will be dead tonight.”
One of the state’s most prominent gun control advocates, Rosenthal spoke at Lesley University this week, providing a trove of sobering statistics related to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States and the staggering availability of assault weapons.
But he also carried a message of hope and a call to action: Tougher gun laws in Massachusetts have stemmed the tide of gun related injuries and deaths, he said, and he is on a quest to affect change at the federal level.
“The majority of Americans don’t do anything or participate in their democracy, but I can tell you, in Washington, D.C., the special interests are very active,” said Rosenthal, co-founder of the Massachusetts non-profit organization Stop Handgun Violence. “But we have an opportunity to change things, and it’s going to take acting before we lose a kid.
“We don't have to ban guns to prevent gun violence, but we have to care and we have to participate in our democracy,” he urged.
Speaking before an audience in the University Hall Amphitheater on Lesley’s Porter Campus on Tuesday evening, Rosenthal discussed his organization’s work to increase public awareness about gun violence – which he calls a “public health crisis.”
He said Stop Handgun Violence advocates for sensible weapons legislation without banning guns, and calls for measures such as closing the “gun show loophole,” which allows anyone to purchase firearms at gun shows without a criminal background check or identification required.
“You need a background check to be a Cub Scout leader, but not to buy 1,000 military weapons a day,” said Rosenthal, who is a licensed gun owner.
Rosenthal said that military-style assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines – the weapons used in the mass shootings in Newtown, Virginia Tech, Columbine and so many other places – are readily available without a background check in 33 states. He blamed Congress for giving immunity to the gun industry.
“The only product exempt by Congress from the national Consumer Product Safety Commission is the firearm. There are no marketing or safety standards,” said Rosenthal. “Gun policy is designed to maximize gun violence… When you maximize gun violence in mass shootings, What happens? You get more gun sales, and more money poured into the uniquely unregulated gun industry.”
Many motorists and pedestrians who have been to Fenway Park have likely seen Stop Handgun Violence’s 252 feet long billboard, which is one of the most visible components of its public awareness campaign. It often presents staggering statistics on gun deaths and photos of children killed by gun violence. In 2009, for example, 2,793 children and teens died from guns, according to the organization.
“The NRA (National Rifle Association) keeps saying a well-armed society is a polite society, and the solution is more guns,” said Rosenthal. “I can tell you, the statistics are so overwhelmingly clear: States with tough gun laws have lower injuries and deaths than states without. It’s such common sense.”
Rosenthal engaged in a Q-and-A session with the audience at the conclusion of his talk, fielding questions such as the media’s role in gun violence, why high-capacity clips are available, and what strategies will effectively change federal policy, such as movements through religious institutions.
“I do think religious organizations helped stop the war in Vietnam, and had a huge impact on Apartheid and slavery and the women’s right to vote,” said Rosenthal. “It requires movements.”
Rosenthal noted that police officers and first responders are issued weapons with 13 rounds, whereas criminals can have 30-100 round clips. He said necessary changes to federal gun policy include prohibition of the sale of military assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, as well as legislation to make gun trafficking a federal crime.
He urged citizens to take ownership of this issue.
“So the hope is that Massachusetts is the model,” Rosenthal said. “Congress needs to do what Massachusetts has done. And the least we can do is pay attention, and help our President.”
Rosenthal was the first of three speakers to visit Lesley during the spring semester as part of a larger conversation on gun violence and gun control in the United States. On March 4, Lesley welcomes psychologist and author Peter Langman to offer his insights and research on school shootings. On April 1, Lesley will host New Yorker staff writer and Harvard Professor Jill Lepore.
The lectures are free and open to the public.
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