Several years ago while he was still on Capitol Hill, Steve Israel got a call from Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of U.S. House of Representatives, as he was in the middle of writing a passage for his new novel. He decided to let the call go to voicemail and continued to write.
Israel hasn’t looked back since.
“I would just write constantly,” said Israel, who represented parts of Long Island and Queens during his 16-year stint in office. “It became my therapy.”
Israel left the U.S. House of Representatives in 2017 because of growing frustrations over fundraising, missing time with his family and Congress’ seeming inability to pass legislation related to common-sense gun reform. He also just wanted to write.
The result is “Big Guns,” a satirical novel about a gun manufacturer that lobbies a congressman to pass a new law, one that would require every American to own a gun.
With the novel, and another one in the works, Israel hopes to use literature to expose the more absurd aspects of his former job, all of which he now speaks candidly and honestly about.
“The best way I can explain things to people is through humor or through satire,” Israel told a group at Commonpoint Queens in Forest Hills on June 17. “Now I’m free. I’m liberated. I can tell the truth.”
The novel, Israel says, was written as an answer to why Congress doesn’t pass common-sense gun legislation, even the wake of a mass shooting.
“While I was in Congress there were 52 mass shootings in America,” Israel said. “After every one of those shootings, I, and virtually every single one of my colleagues, was asked, ‘When are you going to do something about this?'”
Israel tried, however, to do something about it. In 2009, he co-sponsored the “No Fly, No Buy Act,” which would have prohibited suspected terrorists on the No Fly list from buying a gun.
“Slam dunk,” Israel said. “Who could be against that?”
And yet, the bill didn’t pass. After introducing the bill, Israel said a Republican colleague told him that despite support for the bill, it would have upset the Republican’s constituency and someone would have run against him in the next primary race if he were to vote for it.
Israel says that this is part of the absurdity of being a member of Congress. The thought of losing one’s seat became a driver of nearly every action.
“The cost of survival has become way too high,” said Israel.
But there is a bright side, according to Israel, at least in his book. A slight spoiler alert – it ends on a good note.
“There’s hope that we can change things,” said Israel.