With regard to President Obama's address to the nation to strengthen America's gun laws, Congresswoman Brown made the following statement:
"The level of gun violence in our nation has reached a level that is simply unacceptable. Over the last few years we have witnessed Columbine, Virginia Tech, Tucson, the Sikh Temple shootings in Wisconsin, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, and now Newtown. There is also unabated gun violence on the streets in every American city, whether that is in Jacksonville or Miami, Chicago or New York. Every year in fact, an average of roughly 10,000 people in America are shot and killed with a firearm.
In response to this endless spiral of violence, our nation needs to commit itself to review and strengthen our national gun laws, as well as focus on the importance of mental support services. In the past, both in 1994, and in 2004, I voted to close gun show loopholes and to ban assault weapons, and I would certainly vote to do so again in any future legislation that comes to the floor of the House of Representatives. Assault weapons are designed to be used in times of war by members of our nation's armed forces; not against young children in our schools, or in movie theatres, our streets or shopping malls. This is not to say that all guns need to be banned entirely or that hunters should be disallowed to practice the sport of hunting. However, continued legalization of military style weapons will only lead to future tragedies. Moreover, crimes committed with these types of assault weapons put our law enforcement officers and First Responders in grave danger, since even the officers themselves are often times overpowered by these potent weapons.
President Obama's Executive Orders, whose purpose is to increase the enforcement of existing gun laws and improve the flow of information among federal agencies to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and others who should not have access to them, are crucial to our nation's response to gun violence, yet alone, they are insufficient. In addition to those initial steps signed today by the President, Congress needs to do its part to strengthen criminal background checks for all gun sales, and close the loophole that allows gun buyers to avoid these checks by purchasing their weapons at gun shows or from a private seller.
Additionally, I strongly support the President's other legislative proposals, including a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines and new gun trafficking laws to crack down on the spread of weapons across the country.
In the words of President Obama, "if there is even one thing we can do to reduce this violence, if there is even one life that can be saved, we have got an obligation to try.'"
The issue of gun violence in our nation is extremely complex:
The excessively high rate of youth unemployment (the unemployment rate for African Americans between the ages of 16-24 for example is currently just under 30%), lack of access to mental health services, and Stand Your Ground Laws in the state of Florida, which allow a person to use deadly force without first retreating from an unlawful threat, are all contributors to this problem as well.
In 2010, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Duval County's crime rate was 5,106 per 100,000 people. The county's murder rate had been the highest among Florida's counties with a population of 500,000 or more for eleven years in 2009, leading to widespread discussion in the community about the entrenched problems related to gun violence.
Two extreme examples of gun violence in the state of Florida stand out:
The case of Rodney Davis, a 17 year old teenager who was shot and killed by a man while he was at a Gate Food Post Store. The man who shot Rodney fired upon the teenagers because they were playing loud music while he was filling up his car and he felt threatened. Although convicted, he attempted to make the claim that he should be protected under the state of Florida's Stand Your Ground Laws.
The case of Trayvon Martin -- a 17 year old boy who was shot and killed by a self appointed vigilante in Sanford, Florida, while walking through the neighborhood one evening to pick up some items from a 7-11 grocery store.
These two striking, and terribly sad examples are a microcosm of the problems of gun violence that ravage our society and city streets each and every day.
Although not a cure all, the outline laid out today by President Obama is a very good first start.