February 11, 2013
Jewish victims of gun violence to attend State of the Union address
After Sami Rahamim’s father, Reuven Rahamim, was killed in a workplace shooting in Minneapolis on Sept. 27, the 17-year-old high school senior began going to synagogue early every morning to say the Mourner’s Kaddish.
He has also become an advocate for stricter gun regulations in Minnesota, spending many days at the Minnesota state Capitol, as well as speaking at churches and synagogues, according to the Huffington Post.
Tomorrow evening, when the President delivers his State of the Union address, Rahamim will be in the gallery of the House of Representatives along with at least 16 other people affected by gun violence, part of an effort by gun control advocates in Congress to urge their colleagues to pass “common-sense gun law reforms.”
“Sami suffered a tragic loss. Yet he has stepped forward to make a difference in our community and our nation and I am proud to have him as my guest at the State of the Union,” said Rep. Keith Ellison (D – Minn.), in a statement.
Ellison, who is the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Jim Langevin (D – R.I.), who was paralyzed as a teenager after being shot, and three other Representatives succeeded in persuading at least a dozen of their colleagues to invite victims of gun violence and family members of shooting victims to the speech tomorrow evening.
Three Jewish Freshmen in Congress, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D - Long Beach), Rep. Brad Schneider (D - Ill.) and Rep. Lois Frankel (D - Fla.), are among those who have invited victims or family members of victims to join them as their guests.
Joshua Stepakoff, who was six years old in 1999 when he was shot by a white supremacist at the North Valley Jewish Community Center, will attend as the guest of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D – Calif.).
“Josh is a remarkable young man whose life was forever changed by a senseless act of mass gun violence,” Feinstein said in a statement. “It is important for members of Congress to see the faces behind these tragedies of gun violence.”
The gunman wounded five people at the JCC, including Stepakoff, who is now 20. He fired 70 rounds using a semiautomatic weapon, the sale of which had been prohibited in 1994 when Congress passed the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. That ban expired in 2004; last month, Feinstein, who sponsored the original legislation, introduced a new bill that would ban the sale and manufacture of assault weapons.
The effort to introduce new gun control legislation has proceeded at a furious clip since the shooting of 20 young children at a school in Newtown, Conn. Rahamim learned how to lobby last summer by participating in a program run by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, according to the Huffington Post, and has been putting that knowledge to use in his fight for gun law reform.
He participated in a round-table discussion with President Obama earlier this month and flew to New York to speak with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who started a group of mayors dedicated to curbing gun violence, which kills 33 Americans every day.
“My father lived the American Dream, but he died the American nightmare,” Rahamim wrote in an article for The Daily Beast, in which he urged Congress to pass the President’s proposals.
Some of the President’s proposals -- including banning high-capacity magazines that hold more than 10 bullets and instituting a universal background check for all gun purchases – will require action from Congress, something that gun control advocates acknowledge may be difficult to achieve.
For evidence of how much resistance there will be to new gun control legislation, one need only look to who another Representative has invited as his guest on Tuesday. Rep. Steve Stockman (R - Tex.) has invited Ted Nugent, the rock star and board member of the National Rifle Association, according to the New York Times.