Wednesday, February 13, 2013

It's Time to Act.

Last night offered a bizarre and jarring juxtaposition. Just as the Christopher Dorner manhunt was reaching its shocking conclusion in Big Bear, California, President Obama delivered his State of the Union Address to Congress. Yet as both stories played out last night, gun violence was front and center.

The President closed on gun safety. He evoked recent victims of gun violence in calling for a vote on gun safety reform. This was perhaps the most emotionally charging part of last night's address.

[... T]he heart of the speech came during his remarks on gun violence. Legislators wore green ribbons to remember the victims of Newtown, but Obama made sure that the victims of violence in urban neighborhoods had their moment here.

He introduced the parents of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, the majorette who was shot in a Chicago park just a mile from Obama’s home. “Just three weeks ago she was here with her classmates, performing at my inauguration,” he said, describing a girl who loved Fig Newtons and her friends. He urged Congress to back gun control legislation for Hadiya’s parents, Nate and Cleo, “along with two dozen other Americans whose lives have been torn apart by gun violence.”

“They deserve a vote,” he said three times, and went on:

"Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

"The families of Newtown deserve a vote.

"The families of Aurora deserve a vote.

"The families of Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg, and the countless other communities ripped open by gun violence –they deserve a simple vote." [...]

On guns, Obama seemed resigned to only getting part of his agenda, but it’s important that he continues to demand a vote on all of it. OK, so insisting “Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice” may not be the approach of the toughest political boss, but on guns, it’s progress, when leaders of both parties scheme to keep popular measures from coming to a vote. Obama seemed to be arguing with absolutists in both camps when he remarked, “We were never sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to make what difference we can.”

And now, we have families throughout Southern California who have lost loved ones as well.

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Randal Quan, who worked hard as a police captain and then as a lawyer defending his colleagues when their jobs were in jeopardy, must live without his daughter.

Monica Quan had grown up beautifully, becoming an assistant basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton and becoming engaged to a young man who may have followed her father’s footsteps into a law enforcement career.

The Lawrence family was proud of Keith, Monica’s fiancĂ©, who worked as a safety officer at USC and dreamed of a career among the ranks of those who protect and serve.

Two young children will grow up without their father, Riverside police officer Michael Crain, gunned down by Dorner while sitting in his patrol car at a traffic light. Crain’s partner, whom police have not yet named, was injured, and continues to fight for his life at a local hospital.

Crain’s wife, Regina, will have the company of hundreds of her lost husband’s colleagues at a funeral service planned for Wednesday, but she will still have to face a future without him. The scars left on her children, still unknown, will surely haunt all three of their lives.

The family of a San Bernardino sheriff’s deputy killed during Dorner’s last stand will also experience these ripples of grief. The deputy, who was not identified as of Wednesday morning, died after coming to help two state Fish and Wildlife wardens who had spotted the fugitive on the winding, snowy roads around Big Bear Lake on Tuesday.

Remember that Christopher Dorner owned a home here in Southern Nevada, about nine miles from The Strip in the Southwest Valley. And while we still don't know how or where he acquired his weapons, we do know he was a frequent customer at Lock N' Load in Henderson. He may have purchased his suppressors there.

Lock N' Load is near Eastern Avenue & the 215 Freeway, right in the heart of Joe Heck's Congressional District. On Monday, several constituents traveled to his Southwest Valley office to ask that he consider all of President Obama's gun safety agenda, including the Assault Weapons Ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines. Even though California already has strict gun safety laws, Dorner likely circumvented them by accessing assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, suppressors, and other dangerous items from a state where they can be easily found. Nevada happens to be one of those states.

We saw two major stories develop last night, and both highlighted the need for better federal gun safety standards. On Capitol Hill, President Obama asked Congress to hold a vote on life-saving gun safety reform measures that most Americans support. And while he was making his request, Members of Congress sat among survivors of gun violence. Joe Heck and Senators Dean Heller & Harry Reid all had to face Obama and these survivors.

Yet as this was happening, we saw even more gun violence victims mourn their lost loved ones in Southern California as the Christopher Dorner chase reached its stunning conclusion in Big Bear. A fourth victim's life was lost as a San Bernardino County Sheriff was shot down during the final standoff. And it's likely he and his colleagues were initially outgunned by Dorner.

What more must it take for Congress to act? Don't these victims deserve a vote? Last night served as another saddening reminder of what must be done.

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