An Arlington man whose sister was killed in the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech will attend President Barack Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night as a guest of U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va.
Omar Joseph Samaha lost his youngest sister, Reema, in the Virginia Tech shooting. Since her death, he 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, which would implement gun safety reforms such as universal background checks for gun purchases and gun shop employees and reporting lost or stolen firearms.
"Omar and his family suffered a tragic loss at the hands of a mentally ill individual with access to firearms," Moran said in a 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, Samaha graduated from Virginia Tech in 2006. He is a 2002 graduate of Westfield High School in Chantilly.
His sister Reema also attended Westfield and, later, Virginia Tech and was killed in the mass shooting on the campus. In late 2007, Samaha 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.
Samaha 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, Samaha 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.”
A Sandy Hook Elementary School survivor is also among the guests for the 2013 State of the Union.
Traditionally, guests at the State of the Union have stories that underscore themes in the night's speech.