January 8, 2013

Giffords, Kelly launch gun control initiative

Bob Christie and Brian Skoloff / The Associated Press

PHOENIX — Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband launched an initiative aimed at curbing gun violence on Tuesday, the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting that killed six people and left her critically injured.

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Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, holds hands with her husband, Mark Kelly, while exiting Town Hall at Fairfield Hills Campus in Newtown, Conn., after meeting with Newtown officials in this Jan. 4, 2013, photo.

AP / The News-Times, Jason Rearick

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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.

"Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources," they wrote in the column.

They said that it will "raise funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby."

The move was hinted 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. 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.

"In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary — nothing at all," Giffords and Kelly wrote in the op-ed.

"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."

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."

"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," they wrote.

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.

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