Group plans a new push for gun laws

Jewish Congress wants 1 million signatures on petition for lawmakers

October 12, 1999|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

The pain of losing their sons to gun violence hasn't left Lois Hess and Faina Vaynerman. Neither has their determination to fight for tougher gun laws.

The women, whose sons were killed in 1975 and 1994, respectively, spoke yesterday at a news conference for the American Jewish Congress' campaign to lobby for stronger federal gun-control laws.

Speaking at the Greenstein Building of The Associated -- Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, AJC members said they want to get a million signatures on petitions in support of the effort.

The AJC wants Congress to require all gun buyers to pass background checks, require all guns to be licensed and registered, outlaw weapons with a capacity to discharge more than 10 rounds of ammunition and create a federally funded gun buy-back program.

More support for the AJC's efforts is expected today at a public hearing of the Governor's Task Force for Childproof Handguns. The hearing is from 7 p.m. to 9: 30 p.m. at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center's auditorium.

An AJC push to have similar legislation passed in June failed because of strong opposition.

"It is my responsibility and the responsibility of every single one of us to stop being silent and say, `Enough,' " said Hess, 71. "The only weapon I have is my voice and my pen, and I will not surrender to the gun lobby."

Hess' son Stuart was shot in the head by an escaped convict Feb. 3, 1975, as he worked in a condominium his father's construction company was building. He was 24.

Hess said she began advocating for stronger laws three weeks after his burial.

Virginia Wolf, executive director of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse, said her organization's files on children killed by guns grows thicker annually.

She said yesterday's news conference is just a start.

"I think we need to build a lot of grass-roots support," said Wolf, widow of state police Cpl. Theodore D. Wolf, who was fatally shot on duty. "I don't think it's a matter of the [National Rifle Association's] money, but their show of strength."

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