FLORENCE, Ala. - Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) came to Florence to talk directly to people he represents for a town hall meeting at the University of North Alabama. A full meeting room of college students and community members gathered to hear what he had to say.
Brooks talked about the financial concerns he has for the United States, particularly in terms of spending. Rep. Brooks said he believes a recent spending bill approved by Congress is not the direction the country needs to be heading, saying he wants to see spending restrained. New spending, he said, can really hurt the country.
Talk also turned to immigration, education, and gun laws.
Grace Sambula asked Brooks about his thoughts on restricting gun laws. She said especially lately, that issue is on her heart.
"There's no reason kids should be afraid to go to school," she said. "And this is an open campus here at the University of North Alabama. Anybody can walk on here at any moment." She said in her opinion, current gun laws in Alabama are not restrictive enough to keep guns out of the wrong hands. "No citizen should be walking around with an AR-15," she stated.
Rep. Brooks said that to him, the gun issue is a constitutional one. He said the second amendment, along with the others in the Bill of Rights, are in place for a reason: preserving the republic. He told the crowd it is important to weigh the importance of the constitutional amendments along with the downsides.
Another student asked Brooks about how mass casualty events can be prevented and Brooks said he believes that is a local decision on a state/city/county level. He said local communities must decide how much protection they want to give students.
Brooks has firsthand experience with gun violence after a man shot at the Republican baseball team last summer as they prepared for the Congressional baseball game. When we asked him how he felt about the shooting in Florida last week, he drew from that experience: "My reaction was one of sadness, having been through that. And of course, that kind of event brings it back up," he stated. "But there are still many questions left to answer. I want to know why the school system did not afford better protection. That is the school system's responsibility."
After the congressional baseball shooting, Brooks told our news partners at The Huntsville Times and AL.com that his stance on the second amendment was unchanged. He echoed the same ideas in his remarks on Monday.
Sambula knows she and Brooks disagree about guns, but she said this experience has allowed her to get to know his views and be involved in the political process.
"I'm going to hold my representatives more accountable for things they say they're going to do," she said. "I'm going to go to these more often. I'm going to ask questions. I'm going to fight for what I believe in. Instead of just sitting back and not doing anything. A lot of people feel like there's nothing you can do, and you can."
Other students echoed her statements.
"I would love to see, especially UNA, become more involved on the local, state, and national level in politics," said Hugo Dante, SGA president. "It's true, you have a lot of students here who are voters. And students are the future in their communities, future leaders, and they really need to get started now really asking questions and being involved."
We asked Robert Phraner, a junior, what he wanted to see moving forward as he notices more division in our nation.
"I would identify as a Republican, but what I think needs to begin in our country is stop drawing such stark party lines and start realizing that we are all Americans at the end of the day," he said. "At the end of this day, this country was founded on freedom for all and we just need to come together."
Rep. Brooks said he values the time he has with the constituents to talk about the issues.
"That's a good way to help the voters understand why I do what I do," he said.