On the second anniversary of the horrific shooting that left her permanently damaged, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is promoting a new firearm safety group aimed at combating the influence of the nation’s powerful gun lobby, the National Rifle Association.
Two years ago, Giffords was shot in the head after a gunman opened fire during a congressional event in Tucson, Ariz. The 2011 shooting spree led to death of six people, including one of Giffords’ own staff members and a 9-year-old girl.
“Since then, my extensive rehabilitation has brought excitement and gratitude to our family. But time and time again, our joy has been diminished by new, all-too-familiar images of death on television: the breaking news alert, stunned witnesses blinking away tears over unspeakable carnage, another community in mourning,” Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, wrote in an op-ed published on Tuesday by USA Today.
There have been 11 mass shootings across the country since the 2011 Tucson event, the couple points out, noting that gun violence kills more than 30,000 Americans each year. In an effort to combat that violence, they have launched Americans for Responsible Solutions, an advocacy group aiming to convince congressional lawmakers to support comprehensive gun control legislation.
“We can't just hope that the last shooting tragedy will prevent the next. Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources,” the op-ed states. “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 tragic shooting and subsequent deaths of 27 people, including 20 small children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month convinced the couple that gun control is no longer an issue lawmakers can ignore. The event was just one of seven U.S. mass shootings that occurred in 2012.
Americans for Responsible Solutions is intended to be the anti-National Rifle Association, serving as a forum where individuals and organizations committed to gun violence prevention can raise funds to battle the pro-gun lobby.
“Legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby,” the couple wrote.
But the gun lobby still has an incredible hold on Capitol Hill. The NRA in particular accounted for 60 percent of all pro-gun lobbying in 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, expending more than $800,000 to influence lawmakers. Other substantial gun rights advocates, all of which fiercely oppose any suggestion of additional regulations for firearm ownership, include the Gun Owners of America, Safari Club International and the National Association for Gun Rights.
The NRA alone spent more than 10 times as much as gun control interest groups in 2011 and the first three quarters of 2012.
Support for gun control is a traditionally controversial topic among Americans, many of whom see gun ownership as an indisputable freedom guaranteed by the Second Amendment. A Gallup poll conducted only days after the Newtown shooting found Americans are most likely to say that an increased police presence at schools and additional government spending on mental health screenings would be more effective toward combating gun violence than banning the sale of assault and semi-automatic firearms.