Rags-to-Riches Stories Leads to Rise in Interest in Entrepreneurial Education

Northeastern 2013 DEMO Day

Northeastern University’s 2013 Demo Day

After being drugged by an odorless, colorless and tasteless substance in his drink, Michael Abramson decided to develop a line of cups and straws that detect date-rape drugs. Companies with founders like Abramson of DrinkSavvy have become a major part of the rise in interest in entrepreneurship.

“You really can’t imagine what it’s like to slowly lose consciousness before you’ve even finished your first drink,” said Abramson, 31, founder and chairman of DrinkSavvy. “My friends were able to get me home safely, but you wake up from a situation like that and it’s kind of scary.”

Following his own experience at a popular Boston club, Abramson began doing research on color-changing date-rape drug testing strips.

“That’s where I kind of came up with the ‘aha’ moment of, if the same cups, straws and stirrers that you were already drinking from were also the color-changing indicator, then you get the continuous, effortless and discreet monitoring of your drink throughout the entire night. And that’s what gave birth to DrinkSavvy.”

Abramson is among the many that take part in the highest level of entrepreneurial activity this country has seen since 2005, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) U.S. Report. Additionally, the study found that younger adults are more likely to start a business.

Dan Gregory, co-director for the Center for Entrepreneurship Education at Northeastern University and faculty adviser to IDEA, Northeastern University’s Venture Accelerator believes that the rise in entrepreneurship is in response to the country’s economic decline and rise in technology.

“When I graduated from college, there were large companies with training programs and you would leave college and then spend six months in the training program and you would go on into the company, “said Gregory. “And those things are really hard now. It’s much harder to find work in companies. Companies hire and fire all the time. The combination of computing power in your hand with being able to start a Web-Based company for almost no money means that people are taking control of their own destiny.”

University-aged students are intrigued by the success stories of those like Abramson and are seeking education in entrepreneurship to help them reach their own achievement. The Young Entrepreneur Council of more than 1,600 Americans ages 16 to 39 found that among those ages, 88 percent believe that entrepreneurship education is important.

“I think the process is becoming a little bit more idolized with shows like ‘Shark Tank,’” said Matt Voska, Northeastern sophomore computer engineering and entrepreneurship major.

ABC’s show “Shark Tank” is a competition to look for and invest in the best business a panel of judges believes America has to offer.

“Everyone wants to see the rags-to-riches kind of story,” said Voska. “You hear about Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, from his dorm room, he’s going from nothing to a multi-billionaire.”

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Matt Voska, director of Demo Day

Voska was the director of this year’s Husky Startup Challenge and Demo Day where Northeastern students were given the opportunity to start their own business and compete for a grand prize of $2,000.

“It’s really the dream, that passion that entrepreneurs have in them. They have this vision and then they have the passion the make it happen,” said Voska. “We’ll teach them how to turn that though, that idea that you write on a napkin and make it a reality.”

Lars King, Northeastern sophomore marketing and entrepreneurship major and Entrepreneurs Club board member, also believes strongly in gaining knowledge and experience in entrepreneurship.

“I naturally come up with so many ideas all the time that I want to actually have the business experience and knowledge so that after college I can successfully lead a business,” said King. “Entrepreneurship is risky and a lot of them fail, but if you learn the best practices, get the most data, do everything in the most intelligent way, it’s actually a much more educated guess.”

Patricia Nolan-Brown, inventor of the Rear-Facing Carseat Mirror and other projects and author of the new book “Idea to Invention,” believes that now is the perfect time to become an entrepreneur. Virtually anyone has the ability to be one as long as they polish certain skills,” she said.

“I think that you have to learn how to get a voice if you’re on the quiet side. You have to be a salesperson. You have to be a manufacturer,” said Nolan-Brown, who is based in Lexington. “You have to be the one in the garage, up all night. But it’s a passion. And if you don’t have that passion, you’re not going to be a good entrepreneur.”

Gregory believes, “the passion has to be there to fuel it. But the passion alone is inadequate.”

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Student entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to judges at Demo Day

“I think there’s three pieces,” said Gregory. “There’s passion that you’re born with. There are tools that you can learn and the experience. Actually doing it.”

In terms of tools, Gregory believes that there are some essentials.

“I think a little bit about finance and accounting is critical,” Gregory said. “Learning about legal incorporation and legal rights and the employees. Learning about how you set up an ownership structure for a venture. Learning how to take it to market with social media and the different channels that are available today. All that stuff can be learned.”

Gregory said that students in his courses are often surprised by how difficult it is to begin their own business.

“You’ve got to do everything yourself. Everything takes time,” said Gregory. “People aren’t quite as quick as you want them to be to join your company. It takes longer to develop the product and service. It costs more and you don’t have money and nobody wants to invest money because you don’t have any track record. There are these incredible highs and lows, and you’ve got to endure both.”

As a result of the increase of entrepreneurial education programs and cultural of acceptance of entrepreneurs, the number of entrepreneurs has increased.

“I think it’s harder because it’s so competitive,” said Gregory. “It’s so easy to get into business now because there are so many more people competing for the same customer.”

Brendan Walker, former CEO of Bon Hiver and current CEO of DrinkSavvy, has faced that exact competition and struggle within his own previous company.

After attending West Point and Dartmouth College for a finance and business MBA, Walker began a freebase snowboard bindings company that lasted three years before he decided he had to set it aside.

“To put it akin to someone’s baby, I know it seems a little odd, but it really is,” said Walker. “When you have to face the fact that you’ve got to pull the plug on your own venture. It’s extraordinarily tough because you live, eat and breathe this entire business every day for years.”

Walker said making this kind of decision is difficult because the nature of the business is so unpredictable.

“You never know,” said Walker. “Because you never know if you’re a week away or two weeks away from an investment that turns everything around. Or getting that purchase order or getting that contact from an inquirer or a joint venture. So I think that is the hardest part, knowing when to hold on to the opportunity and when to put it on the shelf.”

Walker believes that although his first business may not have made it, his education helped him make the decision to step away from the project for now and move on to one that is quickly picking up. However, he does not feel that an education in a classroom will fully prepare people for the real world.

“All these things you can’t anticipate down the road, it’s almost impossible for a program to teach something comprehensive where every entrepreneur is going to encounter these situations,” said Walker. “You use lessons that are taught in the classroom. So, I took classes in entrepreneurship but I have to say, 90 percent of what I’ve learned was actually starting my own business and running it.”

“I always joke and say a compass and an MBA are very similar. Just because you have a compass doesn’t mean you’re a navigator. But it sure as hell helps you find your way there,” said Walker. “An MBA, for instance, for an entrepreneur, I think is like that compass because it points you in the right direction.”

Walker agrees with the recent and says that he too finds younger people are becoming more interested in entrepreneurship. He, as well as others, attributes it to a few factors, one being the reaction to the economy.

“A lot of people are getting their educations going through undergraduate and graduate school, thinking the jobs are going to be there. That you can rely on the system to put you in a nice place. And if anything, we’ve been taught recently that there’s nothing to rely on. I think the self-reliance of the next generation is one of the most contributing factors that sprung from the financial crisis.”

Northeastern’s Entrepreneurship week and Husky Startup Challenge in particular encourages that self-reliant generation to begin something on their own.

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Ian Carlson, inventor of Dash and winner of 2013 Demo Day

Ian Carlson, sophomore design major, recently won Northeastern’s Demo Day grand prize of $2000 for his electric longboard kit that he designed and developed completely on his own. Although Carlson grew up with a father who is heavily involved in startups, he did not have any entrepreneurial experience or education prior to joining Entrepreneurs Club or Demo Day.

But after developing his own product, Carlson said he is definitely considering taking on the new entrepreneurship minor.

“If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to spend time and develop it,” said Carlson. “It doesn’t hurt to try and see what happens.”

Behind each entrepreneur is a different motive to begin a business but one underlying reason seems unanimous. Abramson of DrinkSavvy spoke of the wish to break the mold of a traditional career.

“I think a lot of it has to do with differentiating each other from one another,” said Abramson, 31. “A lot of people don’t necessarily feel fulfilled by being a ‘cog in the machine’, so to speak, and they want to build something of their own that they can call their own.”

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Parents and Members of Disabled Community Concerned Over Possible New Education Systems

Boston Arts Academy

Boston Arts Academy

Dianne Lescinskas, secretary of the Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SPEDPAC) and mother of three, has been struggling for the duration of her oldest daughter’s life to find a school that will properly educate her. Like many other parents of disabled children, Lescinskas has pained over the process of finding her child a school and hopes new mayor Marty Walsh will make the process less painful.

“We went to the high school fair and we went to every high school and stopped and asked if they had an inclusive program that would include my daughter, and not one school had it,” said Lescinskas.

Lescinskas, whose daughter, Alexa, 16, has global developmental delay, is one of the many Boston parents who believe that inclusion education is the best for their child because of the social skills that are learned while with other students. In the past, finding a stable and inclusive education for disabled children has proven to be a challenge for parents, but with the new mayor, parents and members of the disabled community are eager to see what changes will be brought about.

According to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), 19 percent of students in Boston have disabilities. Within that 19 percent, there are different levels of disabilities and it was found by the Center for Education Policy and Practice that Boston Charter Schools serve a smaller percentage of SPED students compared to the Boston Public Schools.

Professor at Western Michigan University, Gary Miron, discovered that district schools enroll three times as many special needs students as charter schools. Additionally, they found in their study that charter schools tend to serve only students with mild disabilities and none with multiple or severe disabilities.

Ruth Colker, author of “Disabled Education: A Critical Analysis of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act” and professor at Ohio State University, also believes there are some flaws in charter schools for disabled children.

“We’ve had a lot of trouble nationally where charter schools do not meet their obligations to children with disabilities,” said Colker. “They try to dissuade them (students) not to enroll but if they do enroll they try to persuade them to unenroll. So it’s a real problem if they don’t fully embrace their obligation under federal law to provide children with an appropriate education.”

“As for the regular charter schools that are trying to educate all children, it’s just really important that they take on that mission fully of treating children with disabilities,” said Colker.

Andria Amador, Assistant Director for the Special Education and Student Services Department of Boston Public Schools seems to feel comfortable about Walsh’s efforts to stay on top of charter schools and to improve the lives of the disabled community.

“I’m very optimistic and he’s shown his interest in supporting public education and I’m very happy to work with him, “ said Amador. “I think he’ll support us in our initiative to continue our work now, which is including increasing inclusive schools.”

John St. Amand, vice chair of SPEDPAC and father of a 10 year-old daughter with autism, said although SPEDPAC had developed a strong relationship with John Connolly, they were looking forward to working with Walsh.

“We’re obviously excited to work with any elected official who understands our issues,” said St. Amand. “I did reach out to him tell him that if he was elected mayor that we would have every intention of working with him and his administration to address and educate on special education issues.”

Allegra Stout, Disabilities Commission board member has never worked with Walsh before but she recently read his position paper on disabilities that addressed education issues. There were a few things points that concerned her.

“One in particular that I was curious about was that he said he wanted to expand on the disability commission and obviously I took some interest in that,” said Stout. “He said he wanted to make it more representative of Boston’s communities. Which sounds good in theory but I’m definitely curious to know more.”

“I’ve heard he’s pretty supportive of charter schools and I’m concerned about the ways that those might not be good for students with disabilities because they’re often exclusive,” said Stout. “So students with disabilities may not have the opportunity and it might take resources away from public schools. So that is a concern that I have.”

Although Walsh is supportive of charter schools, he addresses special education in his charter school section of his campaign website.

“In particular, charter schools don’t always enroll and retain special education and ELL students to the degree that traditional public schools do, which creates inequities and also affects performance comparisons,” Walsh said. “We need to do more to hold charter schools accountable for student success (just as we must do the same for traditional schools), and require more public reporting so that parents are better able to make informed decisions when considering options.”

Walsh also states that Boston Public Schools (BPS) educates over 15,000 students with disabilities every year. He stresses his support of inclusion on his campaign site.

“My education plan also includes increasing support for inclusion schools… Currently, Boston Public Schools educate 40% of disabled children in substantially separate classrooms,” said Walsh. “This means that far too many students are not included. …It is imperative that the Boston Public Schools rapidly increase the capacity for inclusion.”

Lescinskas has worked with Walsh on several projects before said that he’s truly supportive and cares about the children.

Lescinskas said how she felt that even through the struggle she was luckier than some because she was able to voice her opinion and change things in the system where some parents can’t.

“You’re dealing with a child, in my case that was misdiagnosed. You’re dealing with your own emotions,” said Lescinskas. “And on top of that you’re dealing with, where is my child going to go to school?”

She, as well as others, continue to work for their children’s improved education with the hope of having the help of the new mayor.

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ROTC Programs do not Falter in Recent Times of Strife

More than a decade of war did not deter Max Oyer from joining Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).  In fact, its had quite the opposite affect.

“Despite the conflict, which everyone is aware of, I think that there’s a higher level of understanding that in an officer position, you really kind of can make a difference and really assist in a conflict,” said Max Oyer, sophomore health sciences major and cadet at Northeastern University. “Not just in the country’s sake but for the people who are already there.”

 According to the Washington Post, after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Army saw national ROTC enrollment rise from 28,470 during the 2000-01 school year to over 30,800 two years later.

“During the height of the global war on terrorism and in Afghanistan, that gave a lot of people a sense of duty,” said Lt. Col. Blaise L. Gallahue of the Liberty Battalion, which comprises students from Northeastern and 13 other schools. “They wanted to enroll. And I still get that today. Just yesterday, walking down the street to our lab, I got stopped by a couple of people who were asking how they could join the program.”

It was also found by the Washington Post that during the 2011-12 school year, the Army gained 5,880 officers and reservists, exceeding its goal of 5,350. And that number is still projected to rise.

“This time last year we were sitting at about 95 cadets throughout the entire program,” said Gallahue. “We have made a very concerted effort to get out there and do some active recruiting amongst our student population. And as a result of that, now we’re sitting at 128. And that’s still climbing.”

The Liberty Battalion is composed of 14 schools including Northeastern University, Boston College, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Simmons College. Gallahue said that he believes that some of the increase in enrollment could result from the nation’s economic hardship and tuition costs.

“You have tuitions ranging anywhere from $15-$50,000 a year,” said Gallahue. “And parents and students alike are looking to augment that tuition cost in some form of fashion. So ROTC does offer some scholarships.”  

However, help with tuition is not what brought junior computer science cadet Claude Jean-Calixte from Wentworth Institute of Technology to the ROTC program.

“I have a full ride at Wentworth so I’m not joining the military because of money or anything,” said Jean-Calixte. “It’s a challenge.”

Jean-Calixte comes from a family with a background in the French Legion but he chose to join the U.S. Military instead.  

“The U.S. military is different than the French military. It’s a brotherhood. I feel if I chose to stay in France and join the French Legion, I would probably regret it. While right now, this is probably the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.”

Although Oyer questioned his safety when first considering the program, he believes he made the right decision.

“It is kind of a concerning thought that I could be overseas and involved in the middle of a conflict,” said Oyer. “But I guess what outweighs that is my hope that as an army doctor, I would be able to help the people that are over there. I would rather have the opportunity to help the people that are actually there firing off the guns.”

Boston Disabilities Commission Anxiously Awaits New Mayoral Administration

With the decision of Thomas M. Menino to end his time as mayor of Boston, the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, are apprehensively awaiting the changes the new mayor will bring to their community.

“I think it’s a big question mark,” said Allegra Stout, commission member and health-care organizer at Boston Center for Independent Living in an interview after Wednesday’s commission meeting. “We don’t really know. It seems Menino’s been fairly positive for the disability community lately and somebody new could be much better or much worse.”

Menino has worked closely with commissioner Kristen McCosh on several projects over the past few years to improve the lives of those living with disabilities in Boston. One of those projects was declared by Menino himself and was titled ‘no new brick city.’

Citizens who have wheelchairs in Boston often find it difficult to get around because of the uneven and old, brick streets. According to McCosh, Menino declared that any newly built sidewalks in the city would be at least 5 ft. wide and made out of smooth concrete for ease of travel.

“Mayor Menino has been extremely supportive of disability issues,” said McCosh in an interview after the meeting.

McCosh has been commissioner for about three years now, but according to her fellow commission members, she’s pushed to work more closely with the mayor than past commissioners

“We’ll miss him,” said McCosh. “Personally and for the work he’s done for the community. (The new mayor) will have big shoes to fill. That’s for sure.”

As Menino begins to leave city hall, he suggested other departments prepare for the new administration just as he is. In efforts to make the transition to the new mayor as smooth as possible, Menino launched a blog, called NextBoston. This blog includes information that the current administration believes will be helpful in the future.

Menino has suggested that each governmental department does something similar and has set up a site for them to do so.

“Mayor Menino established that the department heads are encouraged to post things, such as recommendations, for the next administration,” said Ben Roux, commission chair during the meeting. “Outline what you would like to see to guide the new process.”

In efforts to better understand the candidates’ stance on disability issues, the commission sent out a survey for them to complete. Only three completed the survey and out of City Councilor John R. Connolly and state Rep. Martin J. Walsh, only Connolly responded. The commission agreed that it would send the survey to Walsh a second time.

“Certainly it’s disappointing that Walsh didn’t respond,” said Stout. “Because if he’s not even responding to a survey right now, then we can’t really count on him after the election to do anything.”

Walsh’s campaign press secretary, Kate Norton, was contacted to respond to why he did not complete the survey, however she did not reply.

Stout was pleased to see Connolly responded but she wasn’t entirely satisfied, which highlights the improvements and changes the commission hopes will be made during the new mayor’s term.

“I thought that they were fairly good answers. I think I liked his best of the three that we received,” said Stout. “I’m concerned about some of his support for charter schools. Partly because it draws away resources from public education in general and particularly because those schools are often exclusive for students with disabilities. I think that supporting education is wonderful, but I want to make sure that we’re supporting education for all students.”

Connolly’s answers to the survey seem to reflect on his support for special education.

“I have a long and productive working relationship with Boston Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SPEDPAC),” said Connolly. “As chair of the City Council’s education committee, I have invited SPEDPAC leaders to attend and serve as expert panelists at BPS Special Education budget hearings each year and have trusted their input and advice on various issues facing BPS. I also have worked to connect families who are having issues with their children’s IEPs with SPEDPAC resources and support.”

Education isn’t the only concern for the disabled community. Raine Newman, commission member, who was put in a wheelchair after a hit-and-run accident in 1973, is also focused on accessibility.

“Some folks do private transportation and subway. I’m stuck with the subway,” said Newman after the meeting. “Downtown Crossing is the worst, where the Orange Line meets the Red Line. Every elevator is a urinal. There’s always a puddle, in fact, a lick, that I have to roll through, that gets on my wheels, and it gets on my elbows, and it gets on my shoes and on the cuffs of my pants. On the T, not every stop is accessible. And they’re claiming that it is.”

For Newman, the inaccessibility of the subway doesn’t just affect his transportation, but it also affects where he lives.

“There was some artist housing by Dorchester Lower Mills, and I couldn’t take that unit because it was 25 stairs to get down to the subway,” said Newman. “I don’t know what they’re doing. They’re more concerned about being able to use your computer on the subway or the train or being able to go faster than they are about being able to simply get on the train.”

The commission plans on inviting the future mayor to participate in a meeting in order to form a relationship with him and discuss these issues they find pressing.

Coming to City Hall on the Other Side of Journalism

The last time I entered the doors of Boston City Hall was the morning after the marathon bombing. Although I had been working there as a press intern for 6 months, I, like everyone else, was treated as a criminal, and was patted down before being able to enter the lobby.

As I walked out of the T exit with Elijah, I remembered this but was quickly touched by something quite stark in contrast. Right outside the steps to the once-menacing building was music playing and a large crowd gathered. I knew then as the sun shined in our eyes and Elijah and I smiled and simultaneously recognized the beauty of the situation, that today’s experience at City Hall would be different.

It turned out that we had walked right into the introduction of the “Play me, I’m Yours” program. A man I recognized all too well was standing next to the piano. Mayor Tom M. Menino.  Elijah and I stood around for a while and allowed ourselves to soak up some sun, music, and of course take photos as all young journalist kiddos do, before heading inside to begin our assignment.

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Luckily, I knew exactly where to begin. Not so luckily, I was no longer an employee and therefore not special in anyway (as if an intern is special) and was no longer allowed to walk where I had before. I lead Elijah and I into the voting records room, accidentally walked past the receptionist as I once was allowed to, and was quickly scolded at. Fortunately enough, the woman was incredibly helpful and sweet and was able to help me find the voting records of a Danielle Eden Kennedy.

As a result of having no personal ties to Boston and not being able to find my old journalism professor in the records, Danielle Eden Kennedy was chosen at random. Kennedy had registered to vote, but never actually voted. Scandal there? Probably not.

Elijah and I then began searching for the housing assessment portion of our assignment. We asked several people for directions and really began discovering new areas of the building in our hunt for the proper room. We were continually turned on the wrong direction but everyone was incredibly helpful and very nice. We also decided that City Hall would make and excellent site Departed 2.

After some sweaty searching (all good journalism come with sweat) we found the proper room. Those that helped us will remain nameless for now but they were incredibly helpful and truly took their time to assist us in finding an story with our information. And so begins my story ideas.

I chose to learn about my current apartment building, 97 St. Stephen Street. Behind this building is a large parking lot open to all Northeastern students. Fantastic for us, but not so fantastic for the rest of Boston. The city of Boston takes part in the PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program which allows universities, such as Northeastern to be exempt from paying their taxes for their properties because they are considered non-profit. Every year, the universities are sent a notice suggesting that they pay a certain fee. “Do they pay to the measure that we think they should pay? Not necessarily,” said the government employee helping us.

So, properties like the Northeastern parking spaces are being paid for by citizens through their taxes. I would hope to investigate further.

All in all, the day was successful and I feel comfortable going to City Hall and asking for some help finding my way around. Even if it may take a while and a little extra sweat.

Washington Shooting Triggers Gun Talk in Massachusetts

In a country where 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place, according to The Washington Post, there has been ongoing discussion on how to prevent gun violence. This conversation has escalated after the recent massacre in Washington, and although Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, people continue to debate the topic.

“I hate to say this, but I think mass murder is the price we pay to live in a country where we value our personal freedom,” said Jack Levin, a professor of sociology and criminology from Northeastern University. “We’re not going to give it up and we’re going to have to live with a certain amount of violence.”

The shooting took place at the Washington Navy Yard. Aaron Alexis was identified as the gunman and was responsible for killing 12 and injuring 8.

Patrick O’Neil, 20, president of Northeastern University College Republicans and fourth year student majoring in finance, believes that the shooting could have been prevented with the uplifting of the law that disarms military personnel on military bases.

“One of the first things that President Clinton did while in office is actually disarm military personnel on military bases in the United States,” O’Neil said. He said that he found it “mind-boggling” that military personnel, those we should trust most with carrying a firearm, are not allowed to handle them. “That right there would have made it very difficult for the shooter to get off more than a couple of rounds before he was stopped.”

But Lt. Zoel A. Roy Sr. of the Northeastern University Police Department does not think there is such a clear solution. “I don’t know if you can prevent something like that. You have a 3,000 person facility with reasonably good card access with people who have been authorized to be there work there,” said Roy. “None of his (Alexis’) history precluded him from the purchase of a firearm.”

However, some believe guns or lack of security does not cause shootings, such as the one in Washington.

“The CDC that just came out said that we don’t have a gun problem, we have a mental health problem. And I certainly agree with that,” said Jim Wallace, Executive Director of Gun Owners Action League, the official state association of the National Rifle Association.

“I can remember back in the 70s when all of the major facilities were shut down because people just didn’t like the idea of having to put people away and leaving them there,” said Wallace. “But in some circumstances, and I’m not an expert, that’s exactly what has to happen. We really need to address the mental health problem in this country and certainly in this state.”

Wallace believes the current gun laws are “far too strict on the lawful citizen and not nearly strict enough on the human, criminal element.”

He said, “In 1998 when the Mass. gun laws were passed, we actually had 1.5 million licensed gun owners in the state and gun crime was actually drastically reducing prior to 1998,” Wallace said. “When those laws were passed, in the past 15 years now, lawful gun owners have dropped while gun crime has actually doubled or tripled, depending on what statistic you want to look at. So obviously the gun laws went in the wrong direction.”

But the issue of who is decided fit to own a gun isn’t so simple. Jack McDevitt, head of the gun violence committee for the speaker of the house in Massachusetts and Associate Dean of Research for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities at the School of Criminology and Social Justices said, “One of the real challenges facing every state is we’d like to have people suffering from mental illness not be allowed to purchase or own guns, but there’s lots and lots of people who have bouts of depression or go through marriage counseling or go through family troubles, and those people don’t suffer from severe mental illness.”

“So how do you make that determination? Who should make that determination? That’s a very complicated set of issues. And I don’t think any state is doing it correctly yet,” said McDevitt.

McDevitt believes there certainly something to the connection between stricter gun laws and lower gun violence in Massachusetts but laws aren’t the only component to gun violence. McDevitt said, “Gun violence is a complex issue. It’s not just laws and gun acceptability. Its maltreatment, its affected by gangs, it’s affected by a whole bunch of other things. Gun legislation is important but there’s a whole bunch of other things to fit in there.”

“But gun control restrictions work,” said Levin. “For example, Alexis tried to get an AR15, which is an assault rifle, in a gun shop in Virginia and he was denied the sale of the gun there because he was out of state. So you can restrict people by strengthening gun control laws.”

Levin also emphasized the importance of control on handguns. “An overwhelming majority, some like close to 15,000 homicides a year are committed, one bullet, one victim, with a small caliber handgun,” said Levin. “And that’s what we ought to be doing.”

“The reason why Massachusetts probably has one of the lowest gun violence rates per capita is because of, I think, Mayor Menino’s initiative to keep hand guns off the streets,” said Gustave Altobello, 21, a pre-law student at Northeastern. “And I think handguns are the number-one killer.”

Although Massachusetts has a lower level of gun violence than most states, it has had it’s own mass shooting in 2000 where seven people were killed.

“We’re (Massachusetts) not exempt,” said Roy. “We had a couple of people who just blew up the marathon. They had access to guns, but on that particular day that isn’t what they used. But they used the guns to shoot Officer Sean Collier.”

Levin believes that no matter what measures the government takes, the United States will never eradicate gun violence. “We live in a culture of violence and we would have to change our thinking as well as our accessibility to guns,” said Levin.