Trenna Meins doesn’t like the spotlight.
But more than five weeks after her husband was killed at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif., she and her daughters want members of Congress to remember their faces and know their names.
Invited by Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., to Tuesday’s State of the Union, Meins — along with adult daughters Tina and Tawnya — felt they needed to stay in Washington for a week to meet with as many lawmakers and advocacy groups as possible.
“Our family isn’t comfortable in the foreground of anything,” Trenna Meins said. But “if (talking to members) could help a little bit so that other families don’t have to go through what we are going through, then I think that’s worth it.
“It’s just something we feel like we have to do, not just for my husband.”
Damian Meins, 58, and 13 others were killed Dec. 2 when Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, burst into a holiday gathering for San Bernardino County workers.
His family’s first stop on Capitol Hill was the office of a gun-rights advocate, Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif.
“Maybe we brought to light some things he hadn’t thought of,” Tina said. “We’re hoping that he puts a face to this tragedy that occurred, and he sees how it personally is affecting … us.”
The 90-minute meeting was heartfelt, Calvert said in a statement.
“Obviously there are differing views on gun control in Congress,” he said, “but we owe it to the Meins family, and the families of the other victims, to find areas of common ground.
“There is bipartisan support for mental health reform, as well as taking a more aggressive approach to our intelligence gathering and sharing that information with local law enforcement,” said Calvert — who had given up his office’s ticket to the State of the Union so that Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., could invite San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan and San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon.
Takano recalled that when he called the Meins family after the shooting to offer his condolences, Trenna Meins had asked why the government tracks how much cold medicine containing pseudoephedrine a person buys, but doesn’t track bulk purchases of ammunition.
He has begun using her argument.
“They recognize the Second Amendment is a reality,” he said. “Their thinking was very practical. I was personally moved by their story, personally moved by their courage.”
The Meins family said it supported executive actions taken by President Barack Obama this month that tightened requirements on private gun sales, proposed more money for mental health treatment and ordered the Justice Department to hire more investigators to speed up background checks.
But Congress should to do more, the Meinses said, such as reinstating a ban on assault weapons and allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to spend federal money on gun violence research.
“We’re coming to everybody as people that are heartbroken, but not hysterical,” Tina Meins said. “We’re here trying to have rational discourse about this.”
The United States, she said, shouldn’t put the Second Amendment above all others.
“My dad had a right to be alive and to pursue happiness and that was taken from him,” Tina Meins said. “We need to be respectful of each other’s rights, and find compromises when they are necessary.”
Trenna Meins said she was “deeply disappointed” when Republicans blocked attempts to ban people on the FBI’s terrorism watch-list from legally buying guns in the weeks after the San Bernardino shooting.
To have 20 first-graders killed in Newtown, Conn., nine parishioners slain in a South Carolina church and 14 people die at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, Trenna Meins said, and “still not do anything is just unacceptable to me.”
“I’m asking that (lawmakers) be reasonable,” she said. “That’s all I’m asking. I don’t understand what the problem is here.”
©2016 Los Angeles Times