(AP) Giffords, Kelly launch gun control lobbying effort
By BOB CHRISTIE and BRIAN SKOLOFF
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband launched a political action committee aimed at curbing gun violence on Tuesday, the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting that killed six people and left her critically injured.
Giffords and Mark Kelly wrote in an op-ed published in USA Today that their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative would help raise money to support greater gun control efforts.
They said that it will “raise funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby.”
The move was hinted at in Kelly’s recent comments that he and Giffords want to become a prominent voice for gun control efforts.
The couple last week visited Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire in an elementary school, killing 20 children and six adults in December. They also met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun control advocate.
The couple was expected to discuss the initiative in an interview airing Tuesday on ABC News. The network offered a preview of the interview Monday and during “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. Kelly described a meeting with a father of a Connecticut victim in which he “just about lost it” after the parent showed him a picture of his child.
When asked by Sawyer about when such violence happens to school children, Giffords responded: “Enough.”
In the op-ed piece, Kelly and Giffords discussed what they deem lawmakers’ inaction on curbing gun violence.
They hope to start a national conversation about gun violence and raise funds for political activity, so “legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby.”
Tucson will mark the anniversary by ringing bells across the city at the moment that Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a supermarket where Giffords was meeting with constituents.
But even on a day of remembrance, residents won’t be able to escape the gun debate.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik has organized a gun turn-in program at a local police station Tuesday for people who have decided they no longer want weapons in their homes. He’s hoping it helps bring added pressure as Congress and Arizona’s Legislature come back into session to “keep the conversation” alive.
People giving up their guns will receive $50 gift cards from Safeway _ the grocery store chain where Giffords was shot in the parking lot. The grocer contributed $1,000 of the nearly $10,000 Kozachik raised.
He said that as the shooting fades from the public’s mind, issues like controlling the sale of large capacity magazines and keeping guns from the mentally ill need attention.
The event has angered local gun-rights advocates, including an outgoing state senator who plans to gather outside the station and offer people cash for guns instead.
Antenori and Kozachik accused each other of acting out of political motivations. Antenori said the councilman was sullying both the Tucson and Connecticut school shooting victims by the timing of the buyback. Kozachik said the outgoing legislator was just trying to keep his name in the news and remain relevant.
Tucson residents held events over the weekend to mark the anniversary of the Saturday morning when Loughner opened fire with a pistol with a 30-round magazine that he emptied in just 40 seconds.
Rep. Ron Barber, then a Giffords aide, was shot in the thigh and cheek, and went on to replace his boss in Congress. He supports an outright ban on high-capacity magazines and a new federal assault weapons ban while acknowledging there are millions of both already in circulation that will remain there.
Barber plans to mark the moment of the shooting at a private gathering with staff and family members. He will also visit a hospital to thank doctors who treated him and other victims and attend an evening prayer service.
Barber also is pushing for better mental health care and early intervention into school bullying, which he said can lead to serious mental health issues.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican who vetoed GOP-sponsored bills twice in two years that would have allowed guns on school campuses and in public buildings, said Monday she’s expecting more legislation in the wake of the Connecticut shooting, but she offered no suggestions.
Loughner pleaded guilty in the Tucson shooting in November and was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences plus 140 years.