City leaders and community activists rallied around the state Monday to advocate for stronger background checks in hopes local legislative leaders would support President Barack Obama's new gun control initiatives.
At the St. Petersburg City Hall on Monday, leaders called on U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Indian Shores) to support Obama's gun violence prevention proposals.
St. Pete resident Lisa Brown began her speech Monday by reading the names of gun violence victims in St. Pete and Pinellas County.
"Officer Crawford." "Paris Whitehead." "Officer Yaslowitz." "Destynee Burkes."
She concluded by saying one last name, her son, "Cabretti Wheeler".
"All victims of gun violence," Brown said Monday. "Victims that were murdered senselessly. Like someone thought they had the right to take their life. They were murdered with guns.
"Our children should not be wondering if they can make it to the age of 21," Brown added. "Not only am I standing here because I lost my 21-year-old son to gun violence but I am advocating for all children, all men and women that it’s time to do something."
Brown, St. Pete council members Steve Kornell and Karl Nurse and Rev. Russell L Meyer, executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, asked Rep. Young on Monday to be out front in gun prevention violence. They want him to support "common sense" solutions to gun violence by supporting universal background checks.
Kornell said the goal is to make sure guns stay out of the hands of all convicted felons, not out of the hands of people who can legally own a gun. Last week, the St. Pete City Council voted 8-0 to support a resolution to send to state and federal legislatures in hopes they would support universal gun background checks.
"We know common sense tells us we need to make it more difficult for criminals to buy guns," Nurse said. "More difficult for the mentally ill to buy a gun. We do not need semi-automatic riffles to go hunting. The only purpose of those is mass murder.
"It’s time for Congressman Young to step up," Nurse said. "He knows the right thing to do is to support common sense measure that (will) protect the law abiding citizens from the criminals."
Meyer said the focus needs to be on not only preventing criminals from obtaining guns, but an increased focus on trauma care, mental health accessibility and re-entry program to help people coming from the criminal justice system become productive members of society.
"Whether by mass murder, drive-by shootings, or suicide, the easy access to guns and weapons of mass murder must come to an end," Meyer said. "They are killing our youth.
"We kill more people in our cities, towns and streets then we do in war," Meyer added. "The answer is not to arm everyone. As Dr. King said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth means we all become blind and toothless.’ "
Obama is expected to speak about his gun control proposals during Tuesday night's State of the Union address.
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