Today, marks the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting and attempted assassination of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that killed six people and left her critically injured. Since that shooting in Tucson, Arizona in 2011, shootings have happened in Aurora, Colorado and most recently in Newtown, Connecticut. The anniversary seemed only fitting for Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, to launch a political action committee aimed at curbing gun violence.
“Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources,” the couple wrote in an op-ed column ipublished today at USA Today. They also said funding to support greater gun control efforts will come through their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative the op-ed announced the launch of.
Giffords who was a friend to Indian country while serving as U.S. Representative, stepped down last year, shortly after the one year anniversary of the shooting to focus on her recovery. On November 8, Jared Loughner, 24, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of the six people and wounding 13, for seven consecutive life sentences and 140 years.
Leading up to the announcement Giffords and Kelly made recent visits to Newtown, Connecticut and New York City to meet with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun control advocate according to the Associated Press.
“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,” they wrote in the op-ed.
“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.”
Their letter also appeared the day after the first day of a preliminary hearing for James Holmes, who is accused of killing 12 people in the Aurora movie theater on July 20 during the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Almost five months later, on December 14, the Newtown, Connecticut community was struck with tragedy as a Adam Lanza entered the Sandy Hook Elementary school fatally shooting 20 children and six faculty members before taking his own life. It was later revealed Lanza had shot and killed his mother, a teacher at the school, earlier that morning at her home.
“We have experienced too much death and hurt to remain idle. Our response to the Newtown massacre must consist of more than regret, sorrow and condolence. The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve fellow citizens and leaders who have the will to prevent gun violence in the future,” Giffords and Kelly wrote.
The gun control debate seems never ending and appears to have no middle ground between supporters of either side. The National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre recently commented, “If it’s crazy to call for putting police and armed security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy,” referring to the backlash he received from his initial news conference following the Newtown tragedy. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” he said.
Kelly strongly disagrees, recalling the Tucson incident when a man exited a nearby store and almost shot the “good guy” who eventually wrestled Loughner to the ground.
ABC has reported that Giffords and Kelly are asking for a comprehensive background check for private sales of firearms, and that Kelly doesn’t believe extended magazines are needed for those with guns for sport.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, has taken heat for her recent push for reinstatement of a ban on assault weapons.
"I own the guns I own because I acknowledge mankind's shortcomings instead of pretending like they don't exist," Joshua Boston, a former Marine, wrote in a CNN iReport. "There are evil men in this world and there just may be a time when I need to do the unthinkable to protect me or my family."
The conflict of interest even resonates in the couple’s home city of Tucson, where City Councilman Steve Kozachik, organized a gun turn-in program for today, coinciding with the anniversary. People could turn-in guns for a $50 gift card to Safeway – the grocery store chain where the Tucson shooting took place.
"They're stealing it — stealing it," said Frank Antenori, a Republican who was defeated in a congressional primary bid last year. "Can you name me one firearm in working condition that's worth $50 or less?"
“This country is known for using its determination and ingenuity to solve problems, big and small. Wise policy has conquered disease, protected us from dangerous products and substances, and made transportation safer. But when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we're not even trying — and for the worst of reasons,” Giffords and Kelly wrote.