The School Committee this week unanimously endorsed the fledgling Bedford Safe Campaign for Gun Violence Prevention. The Planning Board added its endorsement at a separate meeting.
“These are conversations that have been happening across the country,” Heidi Porter, Director of the town’s Department of Health and Human Services, told the School Committee.
After establishing firearms safety as one of its goals for the year, she explained, the Board of Heath collaborated with her office and the Police Department “and we established this campaign.” The board considers gun violence a “public health epidemic,” she noted.
“We wanted a campaign that focused on education and prevention,” Porter said, and it will begin in about two weeks “and become part of the permanent conversation.”
Highlights are a March 1 community presentation at the high school by two physicians who run the Center for Gun Violence Prevention at Massachusetts General Hospital; a new web page with “lots of supporting information;” an enhanced gun buyback program; a community-wide mailing; and free cable-style locks for firearm storage.
“We are all safer when any firearms in the community are stored safely,” Board of Health member Maureen Richichi told the committee.
“This topic can become politicized,” Porter acknowledged. “We are looking for this to be a safety and educational discussion.”
No community is immune to gun violence,” Police Det. Lt. Scott Jones told the School Committee. “In the past three years, the Bedford Police Department has seized a cache of firearms, including assault weapons, from residents subject to domestic restraining orders. These were homes of children who attend the Bedford Public Schools.”
“Even having a gun in the home can be detrimental to safety,” Jones continued
“We know in Bedford we have about 700 firearms licenses, about 5 percent of the population, 12.5 percent of the households,” Porter said. “The mere presence of a firearm in the home increases the risk of unintended injury.” She referenced data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showing that firearms are the leading cause of death in children.