U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky announced Friday that Evanston resident Carolyn Murray—whose 19-year-old son, Justin, was fatally shot in November—will be her guest of honor at President Obama’s State of the Union Address next week.
Schakowsky is one of several House Democrats who have pledged to bring guests affected by gun violence to the address on Tuesday, Feb. 12, as a way of advocating for gun safety measures.
“I’m very excited to join Congresswoman Schakowsky at the State of the Union Address in honor of my son, Justin,” Murray said in a press release. “Too many young people have been killed by guns, and it must end. As the mother of a young victim, I’m committed to doing everything in my power to end gun violence. The time is now for Congress to act to save lives.”
A former Naval Reservist and longtime community activist, Murray advocated for gun safety measures on a local level even before her son was shot and killed. She began trying to organize a gun buyback program this summer, as part of her role as co-chair of the West Evanston Strategic Team community group. Days after 14-year-old Evanston Township High School Student Dajae Coleman was shot and killed in September, she told Patch the city had finally approved her group’s idea for a gun buyback program. In early November, .
Then, in a tragic twist, Murray’s own son, , in front of his grandmother’s house at 1818 Brown Ave. in Evanston. More than two months later, police are still investigating the shooting and have not taken anyone into custody yet.
The gun buyback took place as scheduled on Dec. 15, when Evanston police collected 45 weapons.
“I would like people to get involved in their community, in their block,” Murray told Patch at the event. “If you weren’t active before, now is the time to start.”
Schakowsky praised Murray’s advocacy in a press release sent out Friday.
“Ms. Murray has turned her pain into power through her tireless work against gun violence and she is truly making a difference in our community,” Schakowsky said.
She also called for nationwide action to prevent further gun violence.
“Our home district in Illinois has seen a great deal of gun violence already this year,” Schakowsky said in the release. “It’s crucial that we take action against gun violence, so that we can prevent the senseless deaths in the future.”
Meanwhile, neighboring congressman Brad Schneider recently announced that his guest of honor will be the mother of Chicago shooting victim Hadiya Pendleton. Hadiya, 15, an honors student at King College Prep in Chicago, was gunned down in a park last month about a mile from President Obama's Kenwood home. She had recently returned from his inauguration, where she had performed with her school band.