10/06/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Bring the Assault Weapons Ban Back Into Presidential Politics

Tonight, Barack Obama is attending a fundraiser in Newark, New Jersey. I truly hope he uses this opportunity to speak about Bukhari Washington and the tragic lunacy of allowing civilians to possess assault weapons legally.

Who is Bukhari Washington? In October 2007, The New York Times profiled him: a tragedy-stricken, resilient teenager in Newark. To introduce his 14-year-old subject, Samuel G. Freedman wrote:

After every cataclysm had struck -- after his father had died and his mother had fallen ill with heart disease, after one older brother had gone into jail and another into a psychiatric hospital, after exhausting the welcome at a sister's home and moving into a shelter, after shuttling through 13 schools by the eighth grade -- after all of that, Bukhari Washington clung to one vision.

Somehow, he would still attend Christ the King Prep.

Bukhari was fiercely determined to gain admission to "epically troubled" Newark's first new Catholic High School to open in fifty years. In a city plagued by poverty and corruption--although a new day may be dawning under Mayor Cory Booker-- Bukhari sought to persevere and prevail through education. He was accepted to Christ the King, and in summer preparation for starting ninth grade, he had completed a "boot camp" and worked in a residence for AIDS patients.

Then, on August 14, Bukhari Washington was killed as he lay in bed. A bullet shot accidentally from a semiautomatic assault rifle in the apartment below him went up through his pillow and ended his life. The 19 year-old neighbor who shot him had no prior criminal record; it appears to have been a horrible accident.

In 2004, George W. Bush and the NRA-influenced Republican congress allowed the federal ban on assault weapons to expire. While the RNC proved that the Republican are looking to identity politics to determine the election, Barack Obama appears admirably set on winning on the issues, and legally restricting assault rifles is an issue on which Democrats have the high ground.

Senator Obama said it himself in his convention speech:

"The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don't tell me we can't uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals."

It's not liberal or conservative to listen to Bukhari Washington speak from beyond his early grave, and then to think about ways that responsible leadership in government could have prevented his death.

"I have to end this curse...Our family has been through so many problems, continuous problems. I feel like I have to stop it, and I'm capable of stopping it."

Bukhari Washington 1993-2008