WASHINGTON—On the second anniversary of the Tucson, Ariz., shootings, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and astronaut husband Capt. Mark Kelly have launched a campaign for gun reform. Their demands will not go unheard.
The Obama administration has indicated a desire for reform, and Vice President Joe Biden, tasked by the president to come up with concrete proposals by the end of the month, is reportedly meeting with gun safety groups, gun lobbyists, and the video and entertainment industry in Washington this week.
Kelly and Giffords—who was forced to resign from Congress on account of critical injuries sustained as a result of the Arizona shooting—expressed frustration at the lack of action on gun reform, particularly following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., last month.
In an opinion piece published Tuesday in USA Today, they launched their campaign, Americans for Responsible Solutions, inviting people to join, donate, and support members of Congress who push for legislative reform to end gun violence.
“Until now, the gun lobby’s political contributions, advertising, and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer,” they wrote.
Six people died in the Arizona shootings on Jan. 8, 2011, including Arizona District Court Chief Judge John Roll and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.
Roxanna Green, Christina-Taylor’s mother, is featured in a 30-second ad that began airing Tuesday in Washington, D.C., and six other cities affected by mass shootings.
Part of a campaign led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a strong proponent for stronger gun laws, the ad opens with a scene from the Sandy Hook School where 20 children and 6 adult staff were killed.
“I know how much it hurts,” says Green in the ad. “I have one question for our political leaders: When will you find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby?” she asks, looking straight into the camera. “Whose child has to die next?”
Until now, the gun lobby’s political contributions, advertising, and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer.
—Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and Capt. Mark Kelly, retired NASA astronaut
In comments following the Newtown shooting, President Obama said that lawmakers would have to come together and take “meaningful action … regardless of the politics.”
He tasked Vice President Joe Biden to consult with members of Congress and outside organizations and come up with a “set of concrete proposals no later than January.”
“This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside,” said the president in a press conference. “This is a team that has a very specific task, to pull together real reforms right now.”
Obama hinted at the areas of reform that would most likely be targeted, noting national surveys that indicate majority support for bans on the sale of military-style assault weapons and “high capacity ammunition clips” in addition to laws which would close loopholes on the purchase of guns without security background checks.
Other initiatives have also been proposed. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement Jan. 6, urging Biden to consider enhanced background checks as well as a measure to track the movement of weapons.
“By cracking down on illegal gun traffickers and their vast criminal networks, we can reduce gun violence and keep our children and families safe,” Gillibrand said in a press release.
The National Rifle Association (NRA) has made it clear that it would oppose gun reform. Following the Newtown shooting, the NRA recommended that armed guards be placed in every school to prevent similar events.
“What I will say in terms of further gun control legislation is that that is the wrong part of the debate. I think the focus should be on school safety,” NRA’s Asa Hutchison told CNN.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the Senate’s leading Republican, endeavored to dodge the issue Sunday, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the biggest national problem is debt.
“None of these issues, I think, will have the kind of priority that spending and debt are going to have over the next two or three months,” said McConnell.
But pressure is mounting on the powerful gun lobby, and lawmakers have been encouraged by the show of support.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) announced Tuesday that he will introduce the Ammunition Background Check Act of 2013, legislation that would require instant background checks for the sale of gun ammunition. The bill is the first of several forthcoming proposals, according to Blumenthal.
“The shootings at Sandy Hook have prompted national reflection and a call to action all around America,” he said in a press release. “Now is the right time to ask what we can do to prevent future tragedies.”
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