'I Can Barely Take My Daughter Outside': Dorchester Shooting Hangs Over Regional Gun Violence Summit

The shooting deaths of two men in Dorchester Wednesday night brings the number of homicides in Boston to 31 so far this year, up from 23 at the same time last year.

The Boston Police Department says shootings are up about by about 25 percent over 2016. Commissioner William Evans blames the proliferation of guns in the streets of Boston.

"There's too many guns out there, and there's too many high-powered guns," Evans said during a regional gun violence summit held in Boston Thursday. "So when these young kids who are 14 are holding guns that might have 16, 18 rounds in them, they're just randomly firing at people. And as a result, in these incidents, we have more people shot.

"But the issue is, where do these kids get the guns?" Evans added. "And what can we do to get it off them?"

Those questions were the focus of the regional summit, which brought together police chiefs and mayors from 86 cities and towns across six northeastern states.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hosted the gathering.

"We have an issue with illegal guns here in the city of Boston, city of Springfield, city of Lawrence, and many other cities and towns," Walsh said. "Working across borders with our colleagues is how we're going to continue to work to solve these issues."

According to Walsh, working across borders is particularly important because Washington is either absent from this effort or working to obstruct it.

A number of people at the summit raised that concern: that a handful of Northeast states are working without the support of the federal government.

"I'm hopeful because we keep meeting and talking about it and trying to stem the tide, but it feels like one step forward, three steps back," said Dan Rivera, the mayor of Lawrence. "On this issue, like the opioid crisis, like immigration, like a lot of federal government problems, they're absent."

Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, but that can't stop guns flowing in from states like New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine, as well as up Interstate 95 from southern states, which have much less restrictive laws.

But summit attendees say they're encouraged by a number of local initiatives, like gun buy-back programs and an online campaign to encourage legal gun owners to keep their guns secure and away from people who shouldn't have them.

And Commissioner Evans says that even though cops like him are frustrated by the recent spike in gun violence, Boston has been spared the run-away violence afflicting other cities.

"We have 30 homicides for the year, which again, are way too many. But when you compare us to other major cities: Baltimore, over 200; Chicago, over 400. We're a relatively peaceful city. Unfortunately, [Wednesday] night was a set-back," Evans said, referencing the double murder in Dorchester.

But that's small consolation for the people who live in the handful of Boston neighborhoods where much of the violence is concentrated.

"I see it all the time. There's not one day I could go by and there's no violence. There's violence every day," said Marlysha Barrows, who works at the Tasty Burger in Dudley Square — in the same building where the gun summit took place.

Barrows lives in Dorchester, not far from where the double murder took place Wednesday night. The two victims were found shot inside a burning car near the intersection of Eastman and Elder streets. Police say the men were shot before the driver crashed the vehicle and were found dead at the scene.

"I can barely take my daughter outside," Barrows said. "We are always indoors. It's not fun. It's not safe. And I don't feel safe, and I'm thinking of moving out of Boston."

Barrows would like to see more cops in the street and more youth programs in her neighborhood. And she echoed an appeal made by Mayor Walsh and Boston police: that her community come together to help stop the violence.

This article was published on Friday, Aug. 11 on the website of WBUR 90.9 FM, Boston’s NPR News Station. The Reporter and WBUR have formed a partnership in which the two news organizations will share resources to collaborate on stories. WBUR’s Anthony Brooks radioed in this story from the Reporter’s newsroom on Dorchester’s Columbia Point.

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