Two years ago, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head when a gunman opened fire in Tuscon, Arizona. Today, on the second anniversary of the shooting, Giffords and her husband unveiled a gun safety group to counter the influence of the gun lobby and “line up squarely behind leaders who will stand up for what’s right.”
The group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, will engage the public in conversation on gun violence and seek to weaken the NRA’s hold on lawmakers. In an op-ed for USA Today, Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly called on Congress to finally take action, which it has neglected to do in the 11 mass shootings since the Arizona shooting:
Special interests purporting to represent gun owners but really advancing the interests of an ideological fringe have used big money and influence to cow Congress into submission. Rather than working to find the balance between our rights and the regulation of a dangerous product, these groups have cast simple protections for our communities as existential threats to individual liberties. Rather than conducting a dialogue, they threaten those who divert from their orthodoxy with political extinction.
As a result, we are more vulnerable to gun violence. Weapons designed for the battlefield have a home in our streets. Criminals and the mentally ill can easily purchase guns by avoiding background checks. Firearm accessories designed for killing at a high rate are legal and widely available. And gun owners are less responsible for the misuse of their weapons than they are for their automobiles.
Forget the boogeyman of big, bad government coming to dispossess you of your firearms. As a Western woman and a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised our Second Amendment rights, we don’t want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home. What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence.
The National Rifle Association’s response to the horrific shooting was of a different nature: It proposed arming teachers and eliminating gun-free zones. Some Republican lawmakers have followed the NRA’s suit, but fortunately gun safety advocates have introduced several gun safety bills in the new Congress and President Obama has pledged to clamp down on gun violence.
On Morning Joe, Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan, endorsed an assault weapons ban, saying, “I spent a career carrying typically either an M16 or an M4 Carbine [..] That’s what our soldiers ought to carry. I personally don’t think there’s any need for that kind of weaponry on the streets and particularly around the schools in America.”