On a recent Thursday in a Boston courthouse, screams and shouts broke out as not guilty verdicts
were read at the conclusion of the quadruple slaying case that has become known as the Mattapan
Massacre. A five-week trial ended with an acquittal for Edward Washington and a mistrial for Dwayne
Moore in a case involving the cold-blooded murder of four people, including a young mother and her
“They’ll get theirs!’’ someone shouted angrily. Outside the courthouse, Inez Smith — grandmother
of the 2-year-old boy shot to death in the killings — screamed, “I did not get justice!” Others yelled at
defense lawyers, “Baby killer! Baby killer!’’
Boston Police stepped up patrols in the Woolson Street area, where the killings took place, while social
workers and clergy members paced the neighborhood. Mayor Thomas Menino, obviously worried
about the angry reaction to a decision he called “hard to accept,” issued an appeal to residents: “We need
to be good to one another and take care of our neighbors to stop the cycle of violence and prevent another
tragedy like this heinous one that occurred in 2010.”
At the same time, protests were springing up around the nation over the killing in Sanford, Fla., of
unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, carrying only a bag of Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea, at the hands
of a Neighborhood Watch volunteer emboldened by a “Stand Your Ground” law to shoot and then plead self-defense.
Gun violence continues to dominate headlines all around the nation. What is remarkable is the level of
acceptance among policymakers of the status quo, and the failure to seek adequate protections and
safeguards against the ease with which firearms are obtained and the casualness with which they are
Some of our leaders, including Menino, are working on stronger gun laws that would close gaps in the
existing background check system that give criminals, terrorists, domestic violence offenders, the seriously mentally ill and other dangerous people easy access to firearms. Better gun laws would also stem
the flow of illegal guns being trafficked into our communities. Such efforts deserve our support.
And then we have politicians like state Sen. Stephen Brewer, who wants Massachusetts to have
a “Stand Your Ground” law similar to Florida’s. The Barre Democrat wants to expand the current “Castle
Doctrine,” which says a person has no duty to retreat from intruders at home before using deadly force, to
allowing the use of deadly force in any public place the person has a right to be — the so-called “Stand
Your Ground” principle.
Brewer ’s bill would allow the residents to use deadly force in any place “if he or she acted in the reasonable belief that an assailant was about to inflict great bodily injury or death upon themselves or upon another person who also had a right to be in the location.”
Imagine Brewer’s Wild, Wild West vision played out in late-night bars or overcrowded subway cars. Think of all the senseless new tragedies to come.
Why stop there, Senator Brewer? If society is safer when everyone has easy access to a gun and the right to use it everywhere, why not give tax breaks as incentives to gun owners? Why not have guns in vending machines for even easier access? Let’s abolish gun permit requirements altogether, because they hamper our right to self-defense, right?
Politicians like Stephen Brewer might not be so quick to embrace easy answers and easier headlines if they had to look in the eyes of a Mattapan grandmother whose 2-year-old was claimed by mindless violence. Or if they could explain with a straight face how allowing a Neighborhood Watch volunteer to walk around with a concealed weapon is a good idea.
Shoot first, ask questions later. This is what we’ve come to in a nation without adequate gun laws. Someone should point that out the next time more innocent lives are claimed by gun violence.