Gun control debate: Perspective from afar

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Some immigrants to South Florida say distance from their native countries has informed their perspective on the gun control debate in the United States.

"My friends comment all the time. They ask me if we're afraid to live here," said Stacy Hopkins, a former resident of Oakville, Canada. "They see it as the Wild West."

Hopkins, who moved to Boca Raton 11 years ago, said strict gun control laws in Canada were in sharp contrast to the ones here.

As people around the world watch the push for comprehensive reform from afar, local prosecutors said some of President Barack Obama's proposals could help them prosecute more people who use guns in crimes.

"We need to make sure that we have the balance between protecting 2nd Amendment rights and protecting the safety of our streets and our families," said Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County State Attorney. "One way to do that is to impose mandatory minimums for the use of a gun in the commission of a crime. The goal is to keep our community safe. That's the overarching concern, And so, we welcome the federal involvement."

Aronberg, who became State Attorney earlier this month, said he would continues to push for minimum sentences of ten years, 20 years and life in prison for convictions of some gun crimes.

Across the United States, Obama said more than 900 people had died in shootings since Newtown.

That number, Hopkins said, stood in contrast to the annual number of shooting deaths in Canada.

In 2010, 170 people were shot and killed.

"It's hard to take when you're from another country and you start to see mass  shootings and things happening," she said. "There, they just think, "Guys, get rid of your guns and this won't happen. What they're doing, I think, is the correct thing. We don't need semi-automatic weapons. Those are designed to kill. They're not designed for anything else."

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