Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona launched Wednesday a new campaign that aims to protect women from gun violence. Giffords, who was shot and severely injured during a constituent meeting in 2011, announced the campaign in Washington, D.C., at an event with more than 100 women from around the country.
Called the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense, the project will raise awareness about the gun threat facing women and push for policy changes to combat gun violence. “We have a problem in our country. Too many women are dying from gun violence,” Giffords said during the event Wednesday.
One of the campaign’s main focuses is on keeping guns away from dangerous individuals, such as those who have been convicted of stalking and domestic abuse. Federal law prohibits people convicted of domestic violence offenses from owning guns, but it does not pertain to abusive dating partners. Current laws also prohibit people with felony stalking convictions from having firearms, but the group would like to extend this to those convicted of misdemeanor stalking offenses.
Some states are ahead of federal law on this issue. At least 12 states prohibit people convicted of misdemeanors against dating partners from owning guns, according to USA Today. In addition, at least 25 states have laws against gun ownership for some people under protective orders from dating partners.
Beyond Giffords, the bipartisan coalition includes a number of other legislators as well as celebrities, military members, civic leaders and law enforcement professionals. Among the members are former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Republican New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican U.S. Rep. Connie Morella, Barnard College President Debora Spar and Mariska Hargitay, activist and star of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Janeé Harteau, chief of police for Minneapolis and another member of the group, said the gun violence against women is a problem that affects everyone.
"When is the last time you saw you a woman shoot up a school?" she asked, according to The Hill. "You don't. ... The reality is women are brought up differently.”
"We're losing both sexes, because our men are going to prison and our women and children are dying," she added. "We need to do something.”
The group released a number of striking statistics with its announcement Wednesday. Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed countries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also found that females are five times more likely to be killed when their domestic abuser has access to a firearm. In addition, firearms were the weapon of choice in more than two-thirds of all spouse and ex-spouse homicides between 1980 and 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Giffords’ new push comes as the country has focused on the gun debate after several recent shootings. This summer, nine churchgoers were murdered in Charleston, South Carolina and then two journalists were killed on air by a former colleague in August. Most recently, several school shootings including one in Roseburg, Oregon, has brought the conversation to the presidential campaign.
October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a fact that Giffords’ super PAC Americans for Responsible Solutions highlighted in announcing the new coalition. Democratic presidential candidates discussed the issue of gun control in the first Democratic debate Tuesday night, with Hillary Clinton hitting Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for his history of sometimes voting against gun restrictions.
"We can change our laws. We can fight for responsible solutions," Giffords said Wednesday, The Hill reported. "Together, we can make women and their families safer."