THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Mother of slain boy adds voice to push for Patrick's antigun bill

Measure limits firearm purchases

By Alex Katz
Globe Correspondent / June 16, 2010

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Kim Odom was all but paralyzed by grief for almost a year after her 13-year-old son, Steven, was fatally shot near the family’s Dorchester home in 2007.

These days, she is one of the more active and outspoken advocates in the fight against gun violence, pledging to make certain that her son did not die in vain.

“Steven’s life doesn’t end on the sidewalk,’’ Odom said yesterday in a moving speech at a State House rally to support Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to reduce illegal firearm violence.

The bill, which would further limit gun purchases and toughen firearm penalties, was considered all but dead last week. But after the rally yesterday, the House voted 111-32 to send the bill to the Judiciary Committee for another vote.

Dozens of antiviolence activists stood outside the State House holding signs that read, “Where did the gun come from?’’ alongside a picture of a handgun with a drop of blood coming from the barrel. The Boston Police Department displayed 12 unloaded automatic weapons to highlight a provision of the bill that would limit gun purchases to one per month.

“The 12 guns here represent the 12 guns that people can still buy in Massachusetts if the governor’s gun bill passes,’’ said John Rosenthal, president of Stop Handgun Violence and a gun owner himself. “No law-abiding gun owner needs more than 12 guns a year.’’

Still, others like state Representative David P. Linksy took more of a no-tolerance approach, scrutinizing not only the number of firearms but the actual firearms themselves.

“The weapons behind me are the types of weapons that have no legitimate purpose,’’ said Linsky, a Natick Democrat. “They are used for crime, and their purpose is to kill people and kill people efficiently.’’

Advocates for the bill say the recent shooting deaths of two 14-year-old Boston boys, Jaewon Martin and Nicholas Fomby-Davis, add urgency for legislative action.

Still, Massachusetts has consistently been one of the nation’s 10 states with the lowest rate of firearm violence, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 2004, the Bay State led all states in this category with approximately 3.22 firearm-related deaths for every 100,000 people. Louisiana, which had the highest death rate, reported more than 20 deaths for every 100,000 people.

On Monday, House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo pledged to help Patrick push the bill through the Legislature.

“He [Patrick] has heard the voices of many of us parents who have lost their children,’’ Odom said. “This is my reality and the reality of too many families in the urban community of Boston.’’

Odom, a pastor, has high hopes for the bill’s passage, though she believes the state needs better rehabilitation programs for former convicts.

During her speech, Odom displayed her slain son’s journal in which he wrote about the “shame’’ of gun violence in the community, just before he was gunned down after playing basketball. In fighting violence, Odom said she intends to pay tribute to her son’s voice, in addition to his memory.

In an interview, she was asked what she would tell him if he were alive today. Her eyes began to fill with tears.

“I would say, ‘Mommy loves you, and she is doing her best . . . to stop the violence and start peace.’ ’’

Alex Katz can be reached at akatz@globe.com.

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