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Public Statements

CBC Hour: A Culture of Violence

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. CLARKE. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, the gentlelady from Ohio (Ms. Fudge), for summoning us to be a part of this Special Order this evening. It is quite timely as we mark the 1-month anniversary of the slaughter of the innocents in Newtown, Connecticut, as we all reflect on the many challenges that we face within our own neighborhoods, our own communities, of longstanding reckless gun violence.

Mr. Speaker, just last week a 90-year-old woman by the name of Gloria Johnson, 90 years old, was shot twice as she walked to the laundromat in East New York, Brooklyn. She lived 90 years to be gunned down in Brooklyn, New York.

Two weeks ago, AK-47 shells were found in Queens, New York, at the scene of the murder of a 17-year-old child--AK-47. You find those types of shells in Iraq, in Afghanistan, not in Queens, New York. But there's a new reality that we are all facing, and that is assault weapons in an urban environment.

And this summer a young 13-year-old boy named Ronald Wallace III was shot in the back by a barrage of gunfire in the streets of Brownsville, Brooklyn, within my own district.

Although New York City has some of the strictest gun laws in the Nation, senseless crimes like these occur all too frequently in my district and across New York City and in other urban communities across the United States.

In 2012, the New York City Police Department reported 226 incidents of handgun violence in Brooklyn, New York, alone.

Illegal gun trafficking and gaping holes in Federal background check requirements are to blame for many of these incidents. Eighty-five percent of the guns used in crimes in New York City are first purchased in States like Virginia and Georgia that do not extend the background check to purchase limitation requirements for private sellers.

Mr. Speaker, I stand with my fellow lawmakers in Congress, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and with Governor Cuomo, in demanding Federal legislation that specifically addresses illegal trafficking of guns across State lines and the requirement of background checks in all gun purchase transactions.

To truly put an end to the random gun violence that plagues New York City and other urban areas, however, we must also address other policy areas that have profound effects on the level of gun violence that we see.

Yes, I agree that mental health and mental illness are important factors that have to be explored and addressed when trying to mitigate against gun violence; however, there's some additional factors that contribute to what has become tantamount to a public health crisis. One such factor is poor educational outcomes.

According to the American Economic Review, a 1-year increase in the average years of education completed reduces violent crime by nearly 30 percent. In fact, between 2000 and 2005, New York State increased its higher education expenditures by roughly 40 percent. During the same period, the State violent crime rate decreased by roughly 20 percent. These statistics are an indication that there is a direct correlation between investment in education and the reduction of violent crime, specifically gun crime.

It is my hope that any legislative measure brought to the floor for consideration also takes into account true and real investment in the inadequate or ineffectual educational systems across this Nation. By bolstering our educational institutions, we help set our children on a path to success instead of one that leads to violent crime, death, and incarceration.

Gun violence is not an inevitable part of life, yet it continues to plague our communities. We are not helpless in this endeavor. We owe it to our constituents, to our Nation, and to future generations to act with urgency and conviction to put an end to the senseless pattern of gun violence, not only in suburban America, but in every community across this Nation, urban America as well.

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues, I look forward to working with you in whatever capacity necessary to save another family from the hurt, the harm, and the trauma of the senseless acts of violence that take place in our communities across this Nation due to illegal handguns and gun trafficking.

With that, Madam Chair, I thank you for yielding.

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