Lawmakers bringing gun-violence victims to SOTU

Some California lawmakers now embroiled in the nation’s gun-control debate will bring gun-violence victims with them as guests to President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has introduced S. 150, a bill to reinstate an updated and expanded federal ban on assault weapons, will host Josh Stepakoff, 20.

Stepakoff was six years old in 1999 when he was shot in the leg during the North Valley Jewish Community Center shooting in Granada Hills, near Los Angeles. The gunman was a white supremacist who fired more than 70 rounds from a semi-automatic assault rifle, injuring five people including three young children.

Now a Cal State Northridge student, Stepakoff is a member of the board of Women Against Gun Violence and is involved with Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Josh is a remarkable young man whose life was forever changed by a senseless act of mass gun violence.” Feinstein said in a news release. “Since his tragic experience, Josh has become a voice for young victims across the country. It is important for members of Congress to see the faces behind these tragedies of gun violence.”

Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, who led House Democrats’ gun-violence task force, will host Elvin Daniel of McHenry, Ill., whose sister, Zina Daniel, was shot and killed by her husband in October inside the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield, Wisc. Two others were killed and four were injured in the shooting.

“Whether you’re an NRA member like Elvin, a hunter and gun owner like me, or one of the millions of Americans who have never fired a gun, we can all agree that we need to do everything we can to keep firearms out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them,” Thompson said in a news release. “Elvin has dedicated himself to helping the victims of gun violence and it is my high honor to host such an extraordinary man at the State of the Union.”

Shortly before she was killed, Zina Daniel had been granted a restraining order against her husband which prohibited him from purchasing a gun. Nonetheless, he was able to buy a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun online two days after the restraining order was issued. In Thompson’s news release, Daniel noted his sister’s killer “was able to buy a firearm from a private seller without a criminal background check.

“As a gun owner and an NRA member, I support common-sense reforms to fix our broken gun laws,” Daniel said. “It’s time for our leaders in Washington to act, so that others do not have to experience the grief I’ll live with for the rest of my life.”

Other lawmakers bringing relatives of gun-violence victims at the State of the Union include Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I.; Rep Diana Degette, D-Colo.; Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.; Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M.; Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I.; Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y.; Rep. Eleanor Norton, D-D.C.; Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo.; Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.; Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.; and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

The president’s State of the Union address will be broadcast live at 6 p.m. Pacific Time on most channels. I’ll be tweeting at @Josh_Richman, and later posting some reactions here.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Common Tater

    Guys, if a politician REALLY. REALLY wants something, we better make damn sure they don’t get it, no matter what it is.