Stop Handgun Violence — a Massachusetts based gun control group — mailed campaign flyers fashioned as invitations Friday to President Donald Trump and nearly 300 members of the U.S. Congress, urging for increased background checks for potential gun owners and a ban on public access to military style assault weapons.
The flyer features photos of mass shooting victims, including two displaying the aftermath of the Oct. 1 Las Vegas shooting, as a means of sparking debate among leaders of gun-related groups and politicians, John Rosenthal, founder and president of Stop Handgun Violence, said.
“You are invited to wipe the blood off your hands and end mass shootings … RSVP before another mass shooting,” the group wrote in the invitation, offering lawmakers the decision to support increased gun control legislation or to “continue to put gun lobby blood money above American lives.”
The flyer closed with the message, “When you RSVP imagine these are your kids,” accompanied by a close-up photo of a blood spattered shooting victim.
Rosenthal said the federal government has made the decision to support unrestricted access to guns as a means of increasing their own campaign contributions.
“They [have to] see the actual people and bodies that are … indistinguishable as a result of their choice to pick blood money campaign contributions from the special interest [National Rifle Association] and gun industry versus public health and safety,” Rosenthal said. “They need to see the results of those consequences.”
Although comprehensive gun laws exist in states like Massachusetts, the choice of elected officials elsewhere to ignore the issue of gun control places citizens everywhere at risk, Rosenthal said.
“We border Maine, New Hampshire, [and] Vermont [which] allow AR-15 assault rifles in large capacity, [and] ammunition magazines in concealed handguns to be purchased without an ID or background check,” Rosenthal said. “And they are just an hour away.”
Another attack is imminent if officials continue to prioritize other topics instead, Rosenthal said.
“It’s just a matter of time before there is a mass shooting … in Boston University or any university in any state,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal said BU’s School of Public Health has emerged as a leader in raising public awareness about the gun violence epidemic being a public health crisis, in addition to stimulating discussion about effective policies.
SPH Dean Sandro Galea said he believes the campaign is a valid way of forcing lawmakers and the general public to address the issue. SPH focuses on a wide range of social and political factors revolving around guns to confront the issue, Galea said.
“There is no question a lot of people died unnecessarily from guns,” Galea said. “I think figuring out how we can mitigate the consequences of guns is one of the ways to create a greater, healthier world.”
The campaign effectively forces the elected officials who have ignored recurring gun violence to regard the public’s appeal, Ann Haaser, administrator and advocacy coordinator for the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said.
Haaser said even one death as a result of gun violence is too many, and organizations like their own in the state and elsewhere must continue to advocate for the strengthening of gun control measures.
“All our work is really aimed toward keeping Massachusetts a state with strong gun laws,” Haaser said. “Right now, we are the state with the lowest gun death rate in the nation, and we want to keep it that way.”
Jim Wallace, executive director of Gun Owners Action League of Massachusetts — a pro-gun organization — said he doubts the effectiveness of the campaign to gain popular support by using “shock factors” versus “logical discussion.”
“Any time an organization has to lower themselves to do something like this, it shows you that they are losing the public debate and they are getting desperate,” Wallace said. “People are turned off by [these] kind of tactics.”
As firearms, such as the AR-15, have been in the hands of civilians for years, Wallace said, guns are not the problem, but rather the “dangerous people” in society.
“If we don’t address the human element, we can talk about all these other little things,” Wallace said. “But until we deal with the people — whether it’s mental health or whether it’s criminal issues, we are only [going to] get worse.”
Several Boston residents emphasized their support for increased gun control legislation in the United States given recent incidents of mass shootings.
John Murphy, 58, of West Roxbury, said everyday citizens should not have the ability to access guns, but that he does not think Stop Handgun Violence’s RSVP campaign will have much of an effect.
“If they are not swayed by a bunch of first graders being murdered in Connecticut, I don’t know that this photograph will sensitize them anymore,” Murphy said. “I think that people are just too dug into their own viewpoints.”
Cristina Samper, 21, of Brighton, said guns, especially military style assault weapons, are not necessary to use in this day and age, and expressed more regulations should be in place.
“There’s more background checks for adopting an animal than toward carrying a gun with you,” Samper said. “And they really don’t check mental, psychological issues, brain diseases — nothing like that. It’s not regulated at all, and guns kill. They’re weapons.”
Jim English, 64, of Dorchester, said he supports background checks for all firearm sales as well as other gun control measures.
“There is no reason to have a concealed weapon unless you have a license to carry it,” English said. “You need a license to drive a car — how about to have a gun?”