December 23, 2015: Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is…

December 23, 2015 Belmont Citizen-Herald

Dear Santa, It’s been a bad year given the number of people shooting each other around the country. It’s painful even to recall all the deaths due to guns. And just think, we’ve had so many mass killings in this country that, at first, people didn’t even know if the recent San Bernardino shootings should be labelled “terrorism.”

Imagine that. Folks couldn’t tell whether killing 14 people with automatic weapons was terrorism, or was instead just your ordinary run-of-the-mill mass murders.

But, Santa, I’m not writing to ask you for reasonable gun controls. Banning people on no-fly lists from buying military style weapons seems to be too much to hope for.

Limiting magazine sizes, so mass murderers would at least have to stop to reload before they kill more of our kids doesn’t seem to be on the table either. We’ll have to leave those requests to the voting booth.

However, Santa, what I’m asking for will stop more deaths annually than all those mass murders combined. In fact, Santa, the majority of gun deaths each year include those by accident and suicide. When a person brings a gun into a home, it is 22 times more likely that that gun will be used to injure or kill a family member than an intruder.

Santa, a petition is now circulating at ProgressiveWatertown.org asking our state Attorney General to require all guns sold in Massachusetts to be sold with “smart triggers.” With a smart trigger, only the owner of a gun can actually fire that gun.

Not only would smart triggers prevent many suicides and most accidental gun deaths, they would also prevent police from having their guns taken from them and used against them on the streets. That’s one reason the head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police supports such technology.

Just between you and me, Santa, I really don’t “get” why this is a hard decision. We put smart caps on aspirin bottles to protect kids from accidental deaths and injury. We make cars that won’t start if a driver’s breath has too much alcohol. The use of password protections has become ingrained in our society. For heaven’s sake, I recently couldn’t download a song recommended to me by my daughter because I was using a lower case “a” rather than a capital “A” in the required security code. I confess, in my mind, it seems that it should be more difficult to pull the trigger on a gun than it is to download the most recent Carrie Underwood song on-line.

So, Santa, I’m not asking you to give Congress the gumption to stand up and say, “one Sandy Hook was one too many.” I’m not even asking you to get Congress out of the pocket of the NRA to make sure that military-style weapons remain in the military, and not on our streets and in our schools.

I haven’t lost my two front teeth, Santa, so I don’t need those for Christmas. My loss of hair is a hopeless cause, so I’ll also set that aside. But the continuing loss of life due to the lack of smart triggers is unconscionable.

All I want for Christmas, Santa, is for our Attorney General to use her authority to protect the public’s health and safety to stop a gun from firing when the hand holding that gun doesn’t belong to that gun.

Merry Christmas, Santa. Here’s hoping that nestled somewhere in that big bag of yours, you can find sufficient wisdom for our Massachusetts Attorney General to mandate smart triggers as one small step toward a more peaceful New Year.

December 10, 2015: Belmont Lions Club: More than Christmas Trees

December 10, 2015: Belmont Citizen-Herald

It’s not the Black Friday sales that tell Belmont residents that Thanksgiving is over each year. It’s the fact that Christmas trees appear for sale at the Lions Club. For many Belmont residents, one entrenched holiday tradition involves the family trek to choose the perfect tree to decorate for the holiday.

Some kids come with the hope of seeing Mr. S. Others talk and laugh with friends and neighbors they run into as they ponder this significant decision. Yet nestled within the 2,300 trees and 2,000 holiday wreaths the Lions Club sells each year is a serious purpose. The Club is one of Belmont’s pre-eminent local service organizations.

The primary beneficiary of the Belmont Lions Club largesse is the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund. Eye research has been a focus of the Lions since Helen Keller challenged the Club’s first national convention to be the “Knights of the Blind” in 1925. In Massachusetts, Belmont Lions Club past-president Tony Giunta says, the Research Fund mainly provides research grants to address diseases of the eyes. One role of these grants, Giunta says, is to contribute seed money for “novel ideas.” Each dollar the Research Fund provides, he notes, leverages an additional $10 in grants. The Belmont community supports the Research Fund with hundreds of thousands of dollars donated through the Lions Club. The Belmont Club has also supported the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind.

Giunta has been a member of the Lions Club for more than ten years. He became interested after one of his customers –Giunta owns and operates Belmont Oil in Waverley Square—told him about various club activities. “I had no idea,” he said. “To me, the Lions Club was just a building.” In contrast is club secretary Tom Hevey. Hevey, a member of the Belmont club for more than 20 years, said that his father had been a Lions Club member, as had his grandfather before him. The Belmont club now has more than 60 members, ranging in age from the early 30s to the early 90s.

One role of the Lions Club, Hevey says, is to help “draw the community together, draw people together.” Indeed, many family traditions in Belmont involve activities that the Lions Club actively supports. Local events that the Lions Club supports include the petting zoo at Town Day, the Payson Park Music Festival, and the Light Up the Town holiday tree-lighting ceremony. “There is no agenda in what we do,” Hevey says, “We try to fill little holes—do what we can.”

What Giunta describes as the “joy” the Club hopes to bring to the community through such family events far transcends the dollars given by the Lions Club to support other local organizations and activities. But, unquestionably, the money is also important. Community organizations receiving Lions Club financial support are too numerous to completely list, but include the Belmont Dramatic Club, the Brendan Grant Foundation, the Food Pantry, and the Foundation for Belmont Education, amongst others. This is in addition to two college scholarships the Lions provide to Belmont High graduates each year.

In addition, the “tip jar” at the Christmas tree sales is a way to raise funds for a local organization chosen by the Club’s president each year. Last year’s tip jar, Giunta reported, raised more than $4,000 for SPORT, an organization providing recreational activities for individuals with special needs.

The Belmont Lions Club. It’s more than an historic building. It’s more than the annual Christmas tree sales. Since being chartered in 1948, the Lions Club has contributed time and again to making Belmont not just a town, but a community.