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Ms. LEE. First, let me thank you, Congresswoman Fudge, our new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, for bringing us here together tonight to discuss this important issue. Also, I wanted to say that Congresswoman Fudge is such a tremendous leader and now, as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has really chartered a very powerful course for equity, justice, and for nonviolence. So thank you very much for your leadership.
I can think of no more important subject than the culture of violence which Congresswoman Fudge has brought us here together to discuss tonight, and specifically gun violence that has been destroying communities, taking lives, and injuring too many people for much too long across America.
As President Obama so eloquently said the Sunday after the tragedy in Newtown which shook the conscience of this country, and which we all still continue to mourn and offer our condolences to the families and friends and the entire community, We cannot accept this violence, the President said. This is visited on children year after year, and somehow is the price of freedom.
We cannot accept this. We cannot accept one more innocent life being lost to violence, not one in Newtown, not one in Chicago or Cleveland, not one in Oakland, California, not one in any town, in any city, in any school, in any theater or in any place of worship, in any mall, or in any of our neighborhoods.
We have an obligation to our children to ensure that Newtown marks a turning point that made us finally say enough is enough. We must come together to build an America where our children do not have to live in fear and where they do have a future.
Last week I was at an event in my district in west Oakland. It was the unveiling of a mural painted by several talented young artists. This Tree of Life mural depicted the hope and the faith that my young people have for a future without violence. Yet they've seen and experienced so much gun violence in their communities throughout their young lives.
Just over the weekend, 11 people were tragically shot in my congressional district. Too many of my constituents have been affected by gun violence, have pleaded for help in protecting their children from the horrors of gun violence, only to see the status quo continue at the Federal level.
Mr. Speaker, we need to take some serious action that includes commonsense measures such as Federal gun buyback programs, banning high-capacity magazines, expanding the 24-hour gun background check, closing the gun show loophole, and re-instituting the assault weapon ban. We need to do this immediately.
But we also need to work to end domestic violence in our homes and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. For whatever reason, unfortunately, it got stuck last Congress. We need to do this right away.
We also must seek input from our young people, community stakeholders, faith communities and others. We can work together to identify the root causes of this Nation's more than 16,000 homicides a year.
Let me call to your attention the work of a magnificent community-based organization in my district that I actually am very proud of that I helped found in the early nineties called the Martin Luther King, Jr. Freedom Center. These young people continue to work on conflict resolution and violence prevention efforts day and night, but they constantly tell us that their work is thwarted due to too many guns in the streets.
Finally, we must recognize gun violence as a critical public health crisis and continue to support comprehensive violence prevention plans.
This week, Congresswoman DeLauro and myself, we're offering an amendment that would end a prohibition, mind you--and Congresswoman Fudge, this is mind-boggling when you see that we have a prohibition at the Department of Health and Human Services that would not allow us to analyze gun violence in terms of public health. We have a prohibition against that. So we're trying to offer an amendment that would take away this prohibition.
As a psychiatric social worker by profession and someone who founded a community mental health center when the psychiatric facilities began to shut down in California, I understand firsthand why we need to help people struggling with mental illness, give them the treatment they need, and reduce the stigma associated with seeking help.
So I'm going to introduce, once again, my bill to add mental health counselors to our schools, which will help children and families struggling with emotional issues who could actually be on the brink; but if we had mental health counselors there, they could really help steer them away from whatever tragedy that could occur.
So we can't allow the status quo to continue, to allow our children and grandchildren to grow up in this culture of violence, in a world where violence threatens our schools, our homes, and our communities.
Let me thank again Congresswoman Fudge for gathering us here tonight to discuss this very important issue. I just want to remind us that next Monday we will once again celebrate the birthday of our great drum major for justice, the prince of peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We must rededicate our lives and our work to the principles of nonviolence, which are more important now more than ever. Dr. King reminded us that violence should never be an option if we really want a world worthy of our children and grandchildren.
Yes, as a major part of this, it does mean getting guns off the streets and working for a culture of peace and security.
Thank you again.
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