Before he introduced his plan this week for strengthening the nation’s gun control laws, President Barack Obama gathered a panel of experts to help guide the administration’s new policy.
They made their way to the White House just after the new year, a group of about 15 participants called to lend their voice to a conversation that could possibly influence the president’s proposal and reshape the future.
Among them was Suzanne Dubus. The executive director of the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center in Newburyport was summoned by the office of Vice President Joe Biden.
Dubus, who grew up in Haverhill and still has strong ties to the city, had been to the White House twice before to be recognized for her work with domestic violence victims. The call concerning gun control was one she immediately accepted.
“It was such an honor to be included,” said Dubus, who lives in Exeter, N.H. “I got the email a few days before the meeting asking if I would like to go. Fresh on the tragedy of Newtown, my initial reaction was, ‘How could you not go?’’’
Dubus and her team of trained employees at the crisis center have extensive experience dealing with many of the issues that drive gun violence. In recent years, they have begun playing a central role in sharing that training to communities across the country through the center’s Domestic Violence High-Risk Team.
Dubus believes the White House sought her perspective because of the organization’s front-line connection to families in crisis as a result of gun and other kinds of violence.
While neither the president nor vice president were at the meeting she attended, Dubus said top-level administrators and staff, including the White House adviser on domestic violence issues, were there.
Dubus said it was Biden’s intention to get participants talking about guns and gun violence and sharing their experiences. Dubus offered some of the specific lessons she has learned in developing the crisis center’s high-risk team.