Daughter helped spur Rep. Newman to advocacy work

Stacey Newman is Missouri state representative of the 87th District, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City.

BY ANYA TULLMAN, SOPHOMORE, LADUE HIGH SCHOOL

Gun control, women’s reproductive rights, voting rights: Each is a hot-button issue in the news today, and all have become constant political topics and targets. Each also comes with abstract sides, opinions and controversy. All are issues that Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, advocates for every day.

Newman, who is Jewish, was first elected in November 2009 to District 87, which includes Clayton and parts of Brentwood, Ladue, Richmond Heights and University City. She represents about 35,000 Missouri citizens as one of 163 members of the House. She ran unopposed in Tuesday’s general election.

Newman’s many jobs include passing the state budget by deciding how Missouri will spend its revenue.

“My responsibility is to advocate for my district and state a good public policy,” she said.

Newman was propelled into politics in May 2000 when her daughter, then 6 years old, wrote a letter to Rosie O’Donnell about kids and guns. The letter had a significant impact, and her daughter appeared on O’Donnell’s TV show to discuss her beliefs and the negative view of guns in the house. 

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“This elevated me as a parent to get involved in gun violence prevention, and through that work led me across the state in terms of fighting against weapon laws, which I consider bad policy,” she said. “That propelled me to work on campaigns and eventually run for office when (the district) seat became open.”

Newman says she is determined to reduce the number of deaths of children in every state by enacting gun laws to stop what she calls the epidemic of gun violence sweeping across the country.

“People are just starting to wake up,” Newman said. “It’s not just in those bad neighborhoods. This is suicides, it’s domestic violence, it’s unintentional shooting by kids getting access to a weapon. It’s all kinds of gun violence. It’s all around us, it’s every day.”

Recently, Newman has been working very closely with the medical community, law enforcement and other elected leaders around the country. She has helped launch the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance (childrensfirearmsafetyalliance.com) a coalition to inform the country about the dangers and risks of household guns.

“We work with every partner that we can find to try to keep people alive, because our gun violence rates are daily and these incidents are daily,” she said.

As a progressive Democrat, Newman aligns very closely with President Barack Obama’s policies. She agrees with his support of women’s reproductive rights, as well as the way he handled the Sandy Hook school shootings and the devastating gun violence tragedies that followed. She has  supported Hillary Clinton and is excited by the possibility of a female president (the results of the election were not determined as of press time).

“I work a lot on gender equality and things like domestic violence, reproductive rights and equal pay that affect women more,” Newman said. “No longer will we, as women, have to aspire to some of these positions but it will be certain that women can lead in all parts of government. That to me is extremely motivating and aspirational for students to have some of these barriers finally broken.”

Newman says her career as a politician has been greatly affected by the Jewish idea of tikkun olam, which stresses acts of kindness to help repair the world.

“My activism comes from Judaism,” Newman said. “I’m so glad that our faith encourages us to repair the world or encourages us that one voice matters. We should not sit back and let the world go by. We have a responsibility through our faith.”

Politicians like Newman are not the only ones trying to minimize gun violence. Malone Hanis, a junior at Ladue Horton Watkins High School and member of Congregation Shaare Emeth, is starting a gun violence prevention club at her school. She hopes to educate students about different ways to help prevent gun violence, because Malone believes it is a huge problem in our country.

“The Second Amendment is really important, and if someone can safely have a gun they should be able to get a gun, but as soon as their possession of the gun puts themselves or others in danger, then they shouldn’t have the gun,” Malone said. 

She also thinks that people who are on either the federal watch list or the no-fly list should not have access to a gun because they could be a threat to themselves and others. 

“To accomplish this, I think a more extensive background check should be implemented and at places like rifle shows there should still be a mandatory background check,” Malone said.

Part of Newman’s job includes working with young members of the community who show an interest in politics and join campaigns, or advocate for a certain controversial law or right. She advocates for many kids and teenagers, and encourages them to search for ways to share their opinions like Malone did.

“Don’t wait until an issue has affected you,” Newman said. “Try to get involved. You don’t have to wait until you’re a voter to actually get involved.”

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