Trenna Meins is well aware that recently proposed federal laws and executive actions on gun control probably would not have saved her late husband, Damian, from death at the hands of Islamic terrorists at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino on Dec. 2.
But that hasn’t stopped her and her daughters, Tina and Tawnya, from using recent high profile meetings with President Barack Obama and several members of the U. S. Congress to advocate for what she calls “common sense gun control measures.”
The Meins are longtime parishioners of St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside and closely connected to the Catholic schools of the diocese. Trenna is the principal of Sacred Heart School in Rancho Cucamonga, while Tawnya is the sixth grade teacher at St. Catherine of Alexandria School in Riverside, where her father had also taught briefly.
On Dec. 18, the Meins family had an opportunity to meet with President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at Indian Springs High School in San Bernardino. As he has done in the past with families of victims of mass shootings, the president met with family of all 14 victims of the Inland Regional Center attack to express his condolences and to listen to their thoughts and questions. Trenna and her daughters were the first of the 14 families to speak with him and the First Lady.
“He and Mrs. Obama were extremely respectful. He gave us all the time we wanted,” she said of the meeting. “It wasn’t for political gain.”
When they learned they would have a chance to meet with the president, Trenna, Tina and Tawnya decided they would use the occasion to express their view on reforming federal gun laws. They wrote it down in a letter that they presented to him. Then they spoke about it.
“Our whole point was, ‘You guys need to work together for the good of everybody,’” Trenna says.
Several weeks after the meeting with President Obama another opportunity to advocate for gun control arose when Congressman Mark Takano invited Trenna to attend the Jan. 12 State of the Union address. Meins lives in California’s 41st Congressional District, which is represented by Takano. In addition, the First Lady invited Tina and Tawnya to the White House to watch the State of the Union speech. The family decided to use their time in Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers about gun control.
With a goal of talking with both Republicans and Democrats, the Meins sat down with, among others, Inland Southern California representatives Ken Calvert (R-Corona); Peter Aguilar (D-Redlands); and Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert). They also met with a representative of House Speaker Paul Ryan and with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
“We were just going to talk to everybody privately,” Trenna said.
Among the reforms Meins asked lawmakers to consider are a ban on the sale of assault rifles, establishment of a federal registry for ammunition and the closing of numerous loopholes that circumvent accountability measures that are currently in place, she says.
“How do buy 4,000 rounds of ammunition and it doesn’t throw up a red flag?” she asks rhetorically, referring to the stockpile of ammunition found in the apartment of her husband’s assailants after the attack. “It’s not registered.”
Trenna said she supports Second Amendment rights, but does not believe it should be a license for owning unlimited weaponry, especially at the expense of public safety.
“We’re not trying to take anyone’s guns away but I don’t think any citizen needs a semi-automatic assault rifle,” she says. “We need reform that gives people a chance, so they can go to school, go to church, go to work without worrying about this stuff.”
As she and her daughters continue to grieve Damian’s death (“It comes and goes. We have our moments.”), Trenna says the family will continue to speak about gun control. They’ve been invited to events on the issue and will continue to reach out to members of Congress urging them to pass bipartisan reform, she said.
John Andrews is the editor of The Inland Catholic Byte, which serves the Diocese of San Bernardino.