Updated: Schakowsky invites Carolyn Murray to attend State of the Union address

Ciara McCarthy, Reporter

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) announced Friday she invited Evanston resident Carolyn Murray to be her guest at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Schakowsky chose Murray because of her activism in the community and her experience as someone who has been impacted by gun violence, spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said.

“I think she is a perfect example of someone who has really turned her pain into power and is using this tragedy as a personal story that underscores the tragedy of gun violence but also the hope that we can do something about this,” Schakowsky told The Daily on Friday.

Murray has been a gun control activist in Evanston for more than six years, organizing the city’s first gun buyback program this December. Murray’s 19-year-old son Justin was fatally shot in Evanston on Nov. 29, a few weeks before the buyback.

In addition to accompanying Schakowsky to the State of the Union address, Murray said she will meet with other gun control groups, including Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The group is flying about 100 victims of gun violence and their families, including Murray, to Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators.

Democratic lawmakers are inviting victims of gun violence to the speech as a sign of their support for Obama’s gun control plans, Singh said. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) invited Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, the mother of slain 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, to attend the State of the Union. Pendleton’s murder on Jan. 29 in Chicago drew national attention and outrage, and her funeral on Saturday drew hundreds of mourners, including first lady Michelle Obama.

Schakowsky said Obama will likely address gun control during his speech, and that the presence of Murray and others affected by gun violence will draw attention to the issue.

“It’s part of our effort to just keep the pressure on the Congress, to put a face on this issue and to insist that something be done right away,” she said. “Everybody’s got the faces of those children at Sandy Hook emblazoned in their mind, but this is a daily crisis in the Chicago area and around the country.”

Singh emphasized that this is a unique moment for Congress to take action, and Republicans would be held accountable if they failed to act.

Murray said she fully supports Obama’s gun control plan, which was unveiled last month. She added she was eager for the opportunity to represent Evanston as a supporter of national gun control efforts.

“It’s an honor to be selected as a representative for our community,” Murray said Friday. “It speaks so much to what we have done as a family to work against gun violence and to try and do something in our community.”

This article was updated Sunday evening with additional information.