Bedford initiates a firearms buyback program

By Julie McCay Turner

no gunsIn the wake of the Newtown, CT, school shootings, the Bedford School Committee addressed improvements to school safety at this week’s meeting, and Bedford’s Police Chief Robert Bongiorno announced a firearms buyback program for the town.

The Bedford Police Department is working “in partnership with the Bedford Board of Health, Bedford Youth and Family Services, Violence Prevention Coalition, First Parish Church, and residents at large, [who have] pledged limited funds for a gun/dangerous weapons buy back. The Gun Buy Back Program will pay residents $50 for each weapon turned in, as long as funds remain,” according to its press release. Each of these weapons will be destroyed. Firearms buyback programs are endorsed by the Massachusetts Association of Police Chiefs.

“The ultimate goal of this gun buyback program is to collect unwanted weapons from Bedford residents and raise public awareness,” Bongiorno added. Specific details of the program and how individuals or organizations can support it will be released soon.

“The Violence Prevention Coalition supports this program as we support any action that reduces the potential for violence in our community,” according to Cathy Cordes, Board of Selectmen representative to the Coalition.

When asked about the current support voiced by the minister and board at First Parish Church, Bongiorno replied, “Community support is critical to the success of this program. I thank the First Parish Church, local clergy, concerned residents and community leaders who support this important initiative.”

If you have unwanted firearms in your home

Residents who have unwanted firearms in their home should call the Police Department’s non-emergency line at 781-275-1212 to have an officer come to their home to remove the weapons and arrange for their disposal. Residents are cautioned against bringing their unwanted firearms to the police station.

The number of gun permits in Bedford

When first queried about the number of individuals registered under License to Carry Firearms permits (LTCs) in Bedford, Chief Bongiorno over-estimated the quantity.“As it turns out, [the estimate] was very high,” said Bongiorno. “A check of our Records Management System reveals the number of total licenses issued is under 1,000, which includes [both] LTC’s and FID’s [Firearm Identification Cards].”

Chief Bongiorno added, “The second amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 17 of the Massachusetts Constitution guarantee the right of people to keep and bear arms. This right however is subject to reasonable government regulation.”

“Bedford is a very safe community,” he continued, “and the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and law abiding. This initiative of collecting unwanted guns, weapons and ammunition addresses a vital public safety and public health issue.”

Firearms as a Public Health Issue

Trauma physicians Drs. Michael Reinhorn and Peter Masiakos and a local organization, Citizens for a Sensible Gun Policy ( hosted a program at the Lincoln/Sudbury Regional High School earlier this week

Moderated by Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, the program featured David Hemenway, a nationally-known expert on gun violence and professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and Dr. Michael Hirsh, Commissioner of Public Health for the City of Worcester.

John Gibbons, Senior Minister at Bedford’sFirst Parish Church, attended the Lincoln/Sudbury presentation and shared the following overview with The Bedford Citizen:

Hemenway compared gun violence to the car safety debate in the 1960’s when some said, “Cars don’t cause accidents; poor drivers cause accidents.” Ultimately, regulation resulted in seat belts, collapsible steering columns, anti-lock brakes and other things that significantly reduced deaths. Similarly, he suggested, there can be gun safety reforms. He noted that the gun industry has been notoriously resistant to public scrutiny and has actively gagged public health research by the CDC.

Dr. Hirsh presented evidence that gun buy-back programs in Worcester have not only significantly reduced the number of guns, but have actually reduced the number of suicides.

Hemenway was quoted in Nicholas Kristoff’s column in the New York Times yesterday: “David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard, says that having a gun at home increases the risk of suicide in that household by two to four times.”  He also appeared in a January 8 forum on gun violence sponsored by the Harvard School of Public Health with several colleagues from the university: Lawrence Tribe, Professor of Constitutional Law; Felton Earls, Professor of Child Psychiatry and Research Professor of Human Behavior and Development; and David King, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy. Click here to see the video.

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