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Former anti-gun violence activist running for Congress

After years fighting for gun control, Shira Goodman's running for office.
Shira Goodman, the former executive director of CeaseFire PA, is running for Congress. (Courtesy of the Goodman campaign)

Shira Goodman spent the last six years as executive director of CeaseFire PA, one of the state’s most visible anti-gun violence organizations. 

But she’s been aware of the country’s problem with guns for longer than that.

“It’s been almost 20 years since Columbine, and I remember exactly where I was: I was on I-95, driving between Baltimore and Philadelphia, and I couldn’t stop listening,” Goodman told Metro. “I am horrified that we are still having school shootings five-plus years since Sandy Hook. We're still having this problem no other country would tolerate.”

Now, Goodman, 47, a Montco resident, is looking for a new way to do something about it: in Washington D.C. Last month, just prior to the Parkland shooting, she announced that she would step down from her position at CeaseFire to run in the Democratic primary in May for U.S. Representative standing for the residents of Pennsylvania’s newly remapped 4th district in Washington, DC.

“I decided I might be able to do more on this and other issues I care about in a new role,” Goodman said, who noted she sees everyday gun violence as just as serious a problem as high-profile mass shootings.

“Although I've been focused on a single issue, I don't think that I'm a single issue candidate,” she said.

Goodman isn’t just running as a gun control candidate. But her expertise in the area, like having personally obtained a concealed-carry permit to understand the process and being able to explain what a bump stock actually is, could make her stand out in the Capitol. 

“We need a whole comprehensive rethinking of how we deal with guns in this country,” she said. “Other developed, industrial nations have the same levels of crime, the same levels of mental illness, the same level drug problems, the same video games and movies, and they just don’t have the same levels of shootings and gun violence. It’s access to guns.” 

Goodman believes the 2nd Amendment, within the Supreme Court’s interpretation in its 2008 Heller decision, can coexist with and allow for a wide range of new possible regulations to protect public safety, like tracking purchases of guns and ammo. 

“We can do things that don’t overly burden the rights of law-abiding gun-owners but can keep guns out of hands of people who shouldn’t have them,” she said. “If you buy too much Sudafed, bells and whistles go off … The Las Vegas shooter buys 50 rifles in a year, thousands of rounds of ammunition, that doesn’t get reported anywhere. Should we talk about that? I’m not even saying you can’t do it, but should it get flagged somewhere?” 

She responded to skepticism about new gun control legislation by pointing to the successful federal bans on machine guns and silencers.

“Except in movies, bad guys don’t have machine guns and silencers,” she said. “Hunters in Pennsylvania who want silencers can still get them, they just have to wait a little longer …You know who doesn’t have them? Guys on the corner who are in rival drug gangs.”

As far as political opposition, Goodman said she can talk to "the other side." But Firearms Owners Against Crime president Kim Stolfer disagreed.

"A Congressman's first duty is to protect our constitutional rights. Shira is unqualified in that regard, because she is a decided opponent of the 2nd Amendment," Stolfer said. "She has an unwillingness to keep an open mind on what is going to work as far as stopping criminals. ... She will be a demagogue in this office, she will not protect citizens' rights."

Whether Goodman can convince voters she would deserve a spot in Congress remains to be seen, but if her experience working in the life-and-death arena of gun violence makes her as driven of a candidate as she was an activist, she could end up making waves in Washington.

“I've met a lot of people who lost spouses or children to gun violence, and I feel like I'm working for them, as well as working to keep other families from knowing their pain,” she said. “It’s really hard, once you get into this problem, to leave it.”