When President Obama gives his State of the Union address Tuesday, in the audience that night will be Northern Virginian Omar Joseph Samaha, a gun violence prevention advocate and guest of Congressman Jim Moran (D-8th).
Omar’s sister, Reema, was killed in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting. Since her death, Omar has advocated for policies to reduce gun violence.
Moran is a member of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force and recently introduced the “NRA Members’ Gun Safety Act,” (H.R. 21) that would implement five gun safety reforms that he notes polling shows are supported by at least 63 percent of NRA members. The reforms include universal background checks for gun purchases and gun shop employees, reporting lost or stolen firearms, and prohibiting individuals on the terrorist watch list to purchase weapons.
“Omar and his family suffered a tragic loss at the hands of a mentally ill individual with access to firearms,” said Moran in a recent news release. “I am impressed with his dedication to making our country safer and pleased Omar will be joining me at the State of the Union.”
Born in Fairfax, Omar graduated in 2006 from Virginia Tech. He is a 2002 graduate of Westfield High School and currently lives in Arlington.
His youngest sister Reema also attended Westfield and college at Virginia Tech and was killed in the mass shooting on the campus. In late 2007, Omar co-founded Students for Gun-Free Schools, which opposes efforts to force colleges and universities to allow students and faculty to carry concealed handguns on their campuses.
Omar also helped expose the "Gun Show Loophole" on ABC’s 20/20 by filming undercover at a Virginia gun show in April 2009. Following a national tour with Mayors Against Illegal Guns in 2011, Omar served as a legislative assistant and grassroots coordinator with the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and continues to work with them today as a volunteer advocate.
“Since Omar lost his sister in 2007, our nation has experienced over 20 mass shootings with five or more fatalities," Moran said. "Following the Newtown shooting, President Obama took decisive action and demonstrated determined leadership by putting forward a comprehensive plan to reduce gun violence. Now, Congress must act on this proposal.”
In 2011, Omar traveled to 56 cities around the country with Mayors Against Illegal Guns representing the "Fix Gun Checks Tour." After meeting with survivors of gun violence, mayors, law enforcement officials, faith leaders and gun owners, the tour ended on Capitol Hill, where Omar and 60 other gun violence survivors called on Congress to fix the national background check system for gun purchases, and apply those checks to all gun sales.