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McMurtry Under Fire for 'Scarlet Letter' Bill for Gangs

Rep. Paul McMurtry signaled that he would pull back the legislation that was criticized this week.

State Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham) is under fire this week for what critics are calling a "Scarlet Letter" approach to fighting gangs, according to an Associated Press report.

McMurtry put forth a bill that would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to put a "G" on the driver's license of gang members.

The bill would target people who authorities have deemed gang members through a point system using "self admission; known group tattoo marking; group related photo; or information from a reliable or confidential informant."

Critics slammed the representative for the bill that they said would unfairly target ex-convicts trying to rehabilitate and even people who don't have a criminal record, the AP reported.

"I’m all for focusing government attention on eradicating gangs and gang culture," Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley said in a statement. "But the most effective way to dismantle the hold gangs have over too many neighborhoods is to improve the economic and social conditions that lead young people to seek out gangs."

McMurtry said the bill wasn't meant to violate a person's civil liberties, but more as a tool for law enforcement to know immediately who they are dealing with during a traffic stop, the AP reported.

The bill is currently in front of the Committee on Transportation. 

Seamus Molloy February 08, 2012 at 07:42 PM
As for the Critics saying the bill "unfairly target ex-convicts trying to rehabilitate" despite good faith efforts on the "convicted gang member criminal" the past still follows them. This give the Police a tool to help protect the Public and themselves. Critics also worry about those "people who don't have a criminal record." If they're known gang members they are a danger to society and again, Law Enforcement should have the most up to date data to protect the Public and themselves. As for City Councilor Pressley she is spot on with her statement "the most effective way to dismantle the hold gangs have over too many neighborhoods is to improve the economic and social conditions that lead young people to seek out gangs." However anyone who is "all for focusing government attention on eradicating gangs and gang culture," must value and welcome the tool offered by Rep. McMurtry. Let's start protecting the law abiding tax paying citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the people who protect us. Sincerely, Seamus Molloy
Ward February 08, 2012 at 08:53 PM
At the risk of sounding Godwinyish, why not just hand out patches to be sewn on the left shoulder of all gang members garments? Just how are gang and suspected gang members going to divest themselves from that 'culture' if they are marked for life with the 'G' on their driver's licenses?
Seamus Molloy February 09, 2012 at 02:12 PM
Not Godwinyish at all. I think a persons' criminal record must be explained when applying for employment as would the "G." And a criminal record can also be sealed after a length of time as should the "G" eliminating a life sentence of "G" status. You have a valid point, gang members should be able to divest themselves from that culture, and being able to wipe the slate clear after a prescribed amount of time could serve serve as a minor deterrent and useful tool to Law-enforcement.

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