© 2018 by Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence

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COALITION NEWSLETTERS

SEPTEMBER 2019 

MEET OUR FULL TIME COMMUNITY ORGANIZER

Who am I?


Hi everyone, I’m Kaila Eckstein the Coalition’s Community Organizer!

I’m from beautiful Asheville, North Carolina and graduated from the (almost) equally beautiful UNC-Chapel Hill (Go Heels!). I originally came to the Coalition as a part-time organizer through the JOIN for Justice fellowship. However, I’m very excited to be sticking around as a full-time organizer post-JOIN Siyyum (graduation). I come to gun violence prevention work with a background in gender-based violence prevention and a passion for using a public health approach to prevent violence from impacting people’s lives. 


What is Community Organizing?


Community organizing is a method of change to focuses on uniting people and harnessing their power. Community organizing centers building relationships with individuals and getting to know their interests and needs. As individuals come together through shared passions and interests we are able to build power and ignite change.

A NOTE FROM OUR
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

As I round out my fourth month with the Coalition, one of the things I have most enjoyed is being out in the community meeting with our member organizations and others who deeply care about the issue of gun violence. I have already learned so much from the amazing organizations that comprise our membership, and I look forward to continuing that learning and relationship building. I believe that a key element of my role is to be solidly grounded in the work of our members - being present at their events and in ongoing conversations with their staff and the communities they serve. 

But I have also learned a great deal from folks that are not necessarily connected to an organized part of this work. As I attend public events or talk with people I meet about my work, people are sharing ideas, concerns, hopes and fears about gun violence. People are also sharing their questions. Some of the most common questions I hear are, “What can I do to stop gun violence?” and “What can I do to help the Coalition?”. This has made me reflect on a few things. One is that I am so incredibly fortunate to be in this role. Not only do I love what I do, but I get to enter each day with the Coalition knowing that I get to do something to address this issue. Another is that others want to feel like they have the same opportunity. 

 

To that end, we are in the process of putting together a more comprehensive volunteer program. Stay tuned for more details about what those opportunities will be, and the training that we will provide to those who are interested in getting more involved. But here is another important thing to consider if you would like to be more active in the work of ending gun violence. Those amazing organizations that comprise our membership are also looking for the support of volunteers. They often have events and other initiatives that require lots of human power, and our role as a Coalition is to highlight those needs through social media and our email communications. At any time, you can also visit our website to see the full list of our membership and see what programs are in your area.

Additionally, our plan is to make this e-newsletter responsive to those who want to get more involved in conversations and efforts to end gun violence. One section, “Did you know?”, will provide information about gun violence statistics and research that you can utilize to increase your knowledge or disseminate on your social media. A part of our charge is to dispel myths and ensure that the larger conversation about gun violence is one that is based on facts, evidence, and research. Another section will be a member highlight so you can learn more about the incredible work of the over 90 organizations that are a part of the Coalition. This newsletter’s highlight is about College Bound Dorchester, an innovative model of supporting youth and young adults in moving forward with their educational goals. We had the honor of attending their recent milestone event, where program participants were celebrated for achieving important steps in their educational journey. I don’t even have the words to describe how inspiring the event was. Other components will be sections for legislative updates and action steps. This may include Coalition actions/events or other suggestions for what you can do to prevent gun violence.
 

We hope you will find all of this information helpful. As always, I welcome hearing from you. You can reach me at ruth@mapreventgunviolence.org. Lastly, thank you for being a part of the Coalition community!

MEET ONE OF OUR MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS

College Bound Dorchester is a Boston nonprofit poised to be a national model for using education to end systemic generational urban poverty and violence through its Uncornered solution.

College Bound Dorchester is a Boston nonprofit poised to be a national model for using education to end systemic generational urban poverty and violence through its Uncornered solution.

We all have the experience of feeling cornered.

For gang-involved youth growing up on the streets of Boston, that feeling is literal. Their street corner determines so much of their lives, including whether they go to school or prison. This photo project reveals the universal experience of what it means to be Uncornered, whether you’re a powerful public figure, an athlete, a business leader, a celebrity, or gang involved. Through bold portraits, photographer John Huet has captured the humanity of a broad range of people, sharing in their own words a moment when they felt cornered and how they became Uncornered.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE 

The Coalition has been busy (and successful!) in supporting the legislative priorities chosen by our members in our member survey last year: addressing crime gun trafficking and straw purchasing and increasing funding for primary prevention work.

This spring, we pushed hard for increases in funding for SSYI programs such as UTEC and Roca, which are research-proven violence prevention programs providing essential interventions for young men between the ages of 17 and 24 at highest risk of perpetrating or falling victim to gun violence. We also pressed for additional funding for Youthworks, an employment program that helps disadvantaged teens and young adults get the experience they need to find and keep jobs, thus addressing one of the underlying root causes of gun violence: lack of opportunity. Our advocacy included meetings with key members of the legislature, including members of Ways and Means and Speaker DeLeo, as well as state house literature drops and media outreach. I’m delighted to announce that SSYI funding has been increased to $10 million, and Youthworks has been increased to over $16 million.

Most recently, we have been working hard to move our top legislative priority, the crime gun data analysis bill sponsored by Senator Cynthia Creem and Rep Marjorie Decker, forward. If passed, this bill will help MA determine how crime guns are reaching our streets so we can better stop them! We co-hosted a lobby day in support of the bill with MFOL Boston on June 3 and have been doing substantial media outreach. The bill was referred to the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, which held a hearing on that bill and many other gun related measures on August 28. The Coalition and its allies and member organizations packed the hearing room. In addition to our own testimony in support of the crime gun data analysis bill, we gathered testimony from member organizations League of Women Voters, Moms Demand Action, JALSA and JCRC, as well as Professor Michael Siegel of the BU School of Public Health.

Coalition members and allies also testified in support of important bills from Representatives David Linsky, Alice Peisch and Chynah Tyler, including expanding background checks on private sales, establishing a commission to investigate smart gun technology, requiring live fire training as part of obtaining a gun license, creating a DPH institute on gun violence and the exploration of an interstate compact to address gun trafficking.

There is much more important work to be done to turn the Crime Gun Data Analysis bill into law! We need to press the members of Public Safety to report the bill out favorably, and then encourage Speaker DeLeo to bring it to the floor for a vote. Please watch your Coalition emails to see how you can help us make this happen!

We are also working on spreading awareness of the new ERPO law. Watch for a new MA website with information for key stakeholders on how to use the law.

 

The Coalition SC also has decided to actively support the Victim Rights bill filed by Rep. Marjorie Decker which will among other things expand the definition of who is considered a victim to include grandparents and domestic partners, who would then be afforded the same rights as other family members. Coalition and our allies believe addressing the resulting trauma from gv and its ripple effects through the community is both the morally right thing to do as well as a meaningful way to further reduce violence.

And other states are looking to MA as their model. Click HERE to see a recent interview with Ruth Zakarin with the Nevada Capital News.

GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION EVENTS

Executive Director Ruth Zakarin and Steering Committee member Angus McQuilken stand with Congressman Neal and Bishop Doug Fisher at the Coalition's Breakfast before the Democratic Convention.

Community Organizer Kaila Eckstein, Executive Director Ruth Zakarin, her daughter, and Steering Committee Member Jen Muroff at the Moms Demand Action Recess Rally.

Community Organizer Kaila Eckstein and Executive Director Ruth Zakarin at a youth led rally hosted by member organization Mothers for Justice and Equality.

Executive Director Ruth Zakarin testifying in front of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security about the Coalition's top legislative priorities.

DID YOU KNOW?!

September is National Suicide Prevention Month

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, firearm suicide claims the lives of over 22,000 people in this country every year, which averages to 61 deaths per day. Over the past decade, the rate of firearm suicide has increased by 19 percent. Firearm suicide makes up approximately ⅔ of all gun related deaths, and comprises half of all suicides overall.

 

States with higher rates of gun ownership and weak gun violence prevention laws have the highest overall suicide rates in

the nation, while states with lower gun ownership rates and strong gun laws have the lowest suicide rates, according to a Violence Policy Center (VPC) analysis of 2017 data (the most recent year available) from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Massachusetts, with our strong gun laws including the Extreme Risk Protection Orders, is 48th in the nation for rates of firearm suicides. Click here for the full list of how states compare, which includes information about suicide rates in comparison to overall rates of gun ownership.

 

Additionally, recent research shows that the prevalence and proximity of gun stores are linked to higher suicide rates. Researchers at Ohio State University analyzed 18 years of national suicide data and identified a statistically significant link between the prevalence of gun stores and increased rates of firearm suicide, particularly in urban areas. Click here for an article from the Trace about this study.

 

The takeaway - stronger gun laws and fewer gun shops are associated with fewer people dying by firearm suicide.

JUNE 2019 

MEET OUR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

Dear Friends,

As I write this, I am in the middle of my third week with the Coalition, and I find myself sitting with countless thoughts, ideas, hopes, and dreams for this work. I hope to introduce myself to you by sharing just a few of those with you now.

 

First, a little background about myself. As you may have read from the previous announcement, my experience has been in working with individuals and families impacted by interpersonal violence - domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking specifically. In my role overseeing services for children impacted by domestic violence, I had the opportunity to work with several children who had lost a parent as a result of a domestic violence homicide, most often perpetrated with a firearm. These experiences brought me in close proximity to the devastating impact of guns and allowed me to bear witness to the long term trauma of gun violence.

Statistics tell us that when a gun is present in a home where domestic violence is occurring, it is five times more likely that the violence will result in a homicide. As advocates who work with survivors will tell you, the fear someone experiences when their abuser has access to a gun, or threatens them with a gun, is profound. It is my hope that our collective work as a Coalition will help create a world where fewer and fewer people have to feel that fear. One in which more people feel safer in their homes, in their communities, in their houses of worship, in their schools, and as they walk through their communities to get to school. A world where every parent can send their children outside to play without fear of serious harm.

While my impulse is to roll up my sleeves and dig deeply into this work, I also recognize how much learning I have in front of me. There is a great deal to learn about the amazing accomplishments and legislative victories of the Coalition so far! I am in awe of what a group of incredibly dedicated volunteers has been able to over the past several years. While there are many people who have devoted hours upon hours of their time to this cause, I must recognize the extraordinary efforts of Janet Goldenberg, who has chaired the Steering Committee and has been a driving force of so many of the Coalition’s accomplishments. I am also eager to learn more about and from our member programs, and explore how we can be in true partnership with them as they move forward with their own work. I look forward to deepening my understanding of gun violence as a public health issue, diving into research about what kinds of legislation have been found to be most effective at reducing gun violence, and learning about best practices in raising public awareness. Additionally, I want to have conversations about how gun violence prevention work intersects with issues of racial justice, criminal justice reform, economic disparity, and the rise of hate in our society. The work will be hard, and the conversations may at times be complex and difficult, but I am truly honored and excited to be in this role.

 

Let me conclude by extending an invitation. I would love to hear from individuals and organizations who have been involved in the work of the Coalition, and hear more about your hopes and dreams for our shared work. Please feel free to reach out to me at 617-718-5645, or ruth@mapreventgunviolence.org. I look forward to being in coalition with all of you!

CHECK OUT THE PEACE MVP AWARDS!
On Thursday, March 28th, 2019, the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence held our annual Peace MVP Awards, which honors leaders in the movement to prevent and eventually eliminate gun violence. This year’s event was particularly inspiring, as we commended and learned from youth from across the state who are at the front and center of this critical work.
Several young leaders were honored, representing area high schools and youth driven organizations such as the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign of the Episcopal Diocese, March for Our Lives, and the Pioneer Valley Project
The over 400 people in attendance had the opportunity to hear directly from some of the award recipients about their work on projects which include: voter registration; legislative advocacy related to the recent passage of the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill; and the 50 Miles More March, which brought students directly to the doorstep of Smith and Wesson to protest the impact of their products on the health and safety of young people across the country. Introduced by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, each award recipient’s leadership and courage provide inspiration to us all.
Several young leaders were honored, representing area high schools and youth driven organizations such as the B-PEACE for Jorge Campaign of the Episcopal Diocese, March for Our Lives, and the Pioneer Valley Project
The over 400 people in attendance had the opportunity to hear directly from some of the award recipients about their work on projects which include: voter registration; legislative advocacy related to the recent passage of the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill; and the 50 Miles More March, which brought students directly to the doorstep of Smith and Wesson to protest the impact of their products on the health and safety of young people across the country. Introduced by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, each award recipient’s leadership and courage provide inspiration to us all.
After the awards ceremony, we were honored to welcome David Hogg as our keynote speaker. David, a survivor of the Parkland shootings and one of the founders of the March for Our Lives movement, challenged us to think about the systems that prop up the proliferation of guns in our society, and the disparities that lead to the disproportionate impact of gun violence in urban communities of color. He reminded us that our work is far from done, even in states like Massachusetts, which has the lowest rate of gun violence in the country. His speech was followed by a panel discussion, facilitated by Dr. Chana Sacks of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Gun Violence Prevention. David, along with award recipients addressed issues such as where they see the work of this movement going, some of the challenges of being
involved in these efforts, and the importance of self care in order to sustain your advocacy. The panel discussion again demonstrated the strength and power of youth led movements, and inspired participants to continue our own efforts to ensure that all young people, regardless of zip code, can grow up in neighborhoods free from gun violence.
JUNE GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION EVENTS
involved in these efforts, and the importance of self care in order to sustain your advocacy. The panel discussion again demonstrated the strength and power of youth led movements, and inspired participants to continue our own efforts to ensure that all young people, regardless of zip code, can grow up in neighborhoods free from gun violence.
Executive Director Ruth Zakarin and Steering Committee member Nan Logan stand with volunteers at Brockton City Hall for their Gun Violence Awareness Day Proclamation. 
Passionate gun violence prevention volunteers gather at the MA State House for 2019 Wear Orange.
Steering Committee member Ellie Miller tables at the Wear Orange 2019 Summer Jam, a community event sponsored by member organization Moms Demand Action.
Steering Committee member Ellie Miller tables at the Wear Orange 2019 Summer Jam, a community event sponsored by member organization Moms Demand Action.
Executive Director Ruth Zakarin, Steering Committee members Ann Haaser, Jen Muroff, and Sonya Yee Coleman join Mark Barden from Sandy Hook Promise at the opening for the MGH Center for Gun Violence Prevention.