By Karen Forman
A Huntington politician turned author is hoping his newest novel hits its mark with area residents.
Former U.S. Congressman Steve Israel (D) celebrated the release of his latest work of fiction “Big Guns” at Huntington’s Book Revue April 19 to a standing-room only crowd.
The 320-page novel, released April 17 by publisher Simon & Schuster, is a political satire on national gun control issues that almost seems ripped from recent headlines.
“After Sandy Hook, I saw the president crying about all the first graders who were murdered and I thought that now things are going to be different,” Israel said. “But nothing changed.”
The former politician said he was inspired after reading that the small town of Nelson, Georgia, passed an ordinance in 2013 that every single resident had to own and carry a gun — or pay a fine.
“That triggered the idea for the book,” he said.
“Big Guns” is the second novel written by Israel, following “The Global War on Morris” which hit book stores in December 2014. Both novels are fictional political satires that make illusions and references to Long Island towns.
“I believe that satire is the most successful way of making a point,” he said. “I wanted to make my point without slapping people in the face, and satire is more believable when you use local references.”
Readers may be surprised to find Israel’s novel is also filled with local characters who are based on people he served with when he was a Huntington town councilman, from 1993 to 2001, and others he met while in Congress.
While serving in the U.S. Congress, the former politician said he and other Democratic congressmen have attempted to pass several bills on gun reform: universal background checks; “no fly, no buy” laws; laws that would outlaw bullets that can pierce a cop’s body armor. All were defeated.
Israel said one day in the “members-only elevator” in Congress, a colleague told him that he couldn’t believe he had just voted against all these gun reform amendments. But otherwise, he couldn’t go back to his district and face all his NRA supporters.
“That shows the intensity of gun voters,” Israel said. “They vote on guns and that’s all. They don’t vote on other issues. And they will not forgive politicians who vote against guns.”
The former politician has been actively involved with the March for Our Lives Long Island movement, founded by 16-year-old Huntington resident Avalon Fenster. While she is still too young to vote, Fenster said she agrees that “young people are the change.” Several students attended the event after having heard Israel speak at the March for Our Lives rally March 24, including Spencer James, a fourth-grader from Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School in Huntington.
“I want my future to be safe and happy,” James said.
Israel said he feels there is hope now for real change in federal gun control policies.
“Our government has failed us on this issue, the adults have allowed this to happen,” he said. “But these young people today are not giving up. They will not forget. And so there will be change.”