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For Gabrielle Giffords, the fight for gun control isn’t over. Despite the Senate’s rejection of comprehensive background measures this April, the former Arizona Democratic Congresswoman and husband Mark Kelly continue to push for this issue which has become very personal for them.
The couple embark today on a seven-day, seven-state tour to remind lawmakers of their constituents’ overwhelming support for expanded background checks.
Giffords told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell this weekend the new push is part of her continued work on the issue after she was critically injured after being shot in the head at a constituent event over two years ago that killed six others.
“I want to build a better place,” Giffords told Mitchell.
As media focused in on revelations about government surveillance, the IRS controversy, and immigration reform, the debate over gun control largely moved out of the national conversation. But initiatives like this one aim to bring it back to the forefront and renew interest in Congress.
The tour includes stops in Nevada, Alaska, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Ohio — states with senators who voted against the bipartisan Senate legislation in April.
Pia Carusone, director of Giffords’ and Kelly’s advocacy group Americans for Responsible Solutions, is optimistic about the continued momentum behind the issue.
“There is a lot of interest in Washington in getting this done and the passion around the country hasn’t waned at all since the background check vote failed in the Senate,” Carusone told MSNBC.com.
The Senate does not have specific plans to bring gun control legislation back for another vote. But Vice President Biden said recently that at least five senators are prepared to switch their votes if the issue comes up again.
The National Rifle Association, which opposes universal background checks, was pleased with the April vote and continues to remind senators of that. The pro-gun-rights organization sent out mailers thanking Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) for voting against the measure and launched ads criticizing Sen. Joe Manchin (D- W.Va.) for his support of the gun control measures.
Nevertheless, the ARS has commissioned polling in key states showing that significant majorities of residents support expanded background checks, despite their representatives’ “no” votes on the issue.
As a former moderate member of Congress, Giffords understands political implications of important votes. That is why she plans to emphasize evidence that voters are supportive of their senators changing their mind on gun control.
For example, these polls show that Nevada voters–including gun owners–want Sen. Dean Heller to change his vote on background checks by a margin of 2:1. In another stop on the tour, Alaska, the group found that even while 64% of voters own a gun–72% favor expanded background checks.
Americans for Responsible Solutions plans to highlight votes on the popular expanded background checks in upcoming elections to remind voters of their Senators’ position.
“A big part of the intention of this group is to show some political muscle on behalf of the reasonable gun owners and non-gun owners in this country,” Carusone said.