Alumnus Leads Anti-Gun-Violence Gesture at State of the Union Address

Congressman Jim Langevin had his spine severed by a bullet at 16.

Jim Langevin

The accidental gunshot in a police station that paralyzed Jim Langevin, M.P.A. ’94, in his teens did not stop him from achieving a career in public service in Rhode Island, capped by his election at 36 to Congress, in 2000—when he became the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Having lived for so long as a “visible symbol” of the danger of guns, as Jeremy W. Peters has reported in The New York Times, the seventh-term Democrat is now seeking to make that point on a larger scale. Given the likelihood that President Barack Obama will address the issue of gun control during tonight’s State of the Union speech, Langevin has been urging House colleagues to give their guest passes for the event to victims of gun violence, or to members of victim’s families. (His guest will be a constituent whose sister was murdered during a robbery at a convenience store she owned.) As of last night, his office listed 23 members of Congress who have agreed to join him, including House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and four fellow Harvard alumni: Elizabeth Esty ’80 and Jim Himes ’88 of Connecticut, Bobby Scott ’69 of Virginia, and Chris Van Hollen, M.P.P. ’85, of Maryland.

When the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force released its policy principles on February 7, designed to “reduce gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans,” Langevin said in a press release, "We must seize this opportunity to do all we can to prevent future tragedies. The vast majority of Americans want to see meaningful reforms to our gun laws to keep weapons out of the wrong hands, and we have a moral obligation to follow through on actions that would make our communities safer, especially our children."

Updated February 13, 2013, 11 a.m.statement released by Representative Langevin’s office following the State of the Union address listed a total of 33 members of Congress who brought guests affected by gun violence. The new list included Steve Lynch, M.P.A. ’99, of Massachusetts and Juan Vargas, J.D. ’91, of California. Separately, Senators Richard Blumenthal ’67, of Connecticut and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (and formerly, Harvard Law School) announced that they, too, had invited guests whose lives had been similarly scarred.

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