Miri Cypers, 30, hails from Los Angeles, but has spent the past dozen years of her life on the East Coast, including a four-year-stop at Barnard College and a host of political jobs in Washington. She is the director of federal affairs and partnerships for Americans for Responsible Solutions — a political action committee that advocates for stricter gun laws that was started by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband Mark Kelly — in 2013. Washington Jewish Week caught up with Cypers at her office near the Shaw neighborhood in Washington.
How did you feel when you heard the news about the Orlando shooting?
I was in shock over what happened. I didn’t know if I should continue with my day or just sit and cry. It was just completely shocking and the magnitude of it was so horrific, and I think like a lot of people I’m still trying to digest the events. But I think when you work in my area, you also have to jolt into action, into crisis mode, and to learn about the facts of what happened and examine our gun laws and see how that may have played a role in the events. Since then we try to honor the victims, but honor them through action and not complacency.
Do you anticipate seeing gun control measures in this country anytime soon?
There are huge margins of support from the American public in general and Republicans and NRA members and gun owners. But I think at the end of the day, we need the political will to be there to make a change.
What made you so interested in gun violence prevention?
Before I worked for Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, I was working at Jewish Women International where I did a lot of work on domestic violence prevention, and I worked on their three-year effort to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. I learned a lot about the issue of domestic violence and how important women leaders are in creating change. After the tragedy at Sandy Hook [in 2012], many people started to look at the issue of gun violence from a new lens, and there was a lot of new energy around the issue. So in my previous job, we really started to look at how women are affected by gun violence and how gun violence and domestic abuse intersect. That’s really how I started opening my eyes up to how this issue affects different communities. I was fortunate to get a call from my current boss, who had an opening at Americans for Responsible Solutions.
What are your responsibilities?
I lobby Congress to strengthen our gun laws and I also lobby Congress to prevent bad laws from passing. I also do our partnership building work to develop a wider tent for our issue and develop important relationships with groups that are helpful to us in our challenging effort.
How did Judaism play a role in your early life?
I was taught to care about and support Israel, so my family would go to Israel in the summer. Just by going to day school I was naturally involved in a lot of Jewish life in Los Angeles. I always had leadership roles in school and organized a lot of activities and was always very politically active, even in high school so I knew doing something in politics that involved social justice was important to me and that’s been a thread throughout my career.
How did you wind up in Washington?
I moved to D.C. the day after I graduated. I always knew that I wanted to live in D.C. and work in the political world, so it seemed like a great time to just sort of kick start my career. It was in 2008, during the financial crisis, which was a really scary time to graduate from college. But I was fortunate to get a really good job working for Congressman [Steve] Israel [D-N.Y.].
Who do you know that has been affected by gun violence?
I work with people every day from the Sandy Hook families to people who lost their kids on the streets of Chicago. What we don’t realize is how many gun deaths are attributed to suicide: 20,000 out of 30,000 gun deaths are suicides each year. I think when you dig a little deeper, it’s an issue that affects all Americans and all communities.”