Mark Kelly, David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal, Michael Hayden, Thad Allen, Wesley Clark and Other Veteran Leaders Launch New “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense” to Urge Elected Leaders to Do More to Prevent Gun Tragedies

June 10, 2016 Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, today joined with veteran leaders from across the country to announce the Advisory Committee of a new national effort, the “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense,” to urge our country’s elected leaders to do more to prevent gun tragedies. The coalition brings together veterans from every branch of our military who are committed to urging our elected leaders to enact responsible change that respects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans, helps keep guns out of the wrong hands, and saves lives.

“As service members, each of us swore an oath to protect our Constitution and the homeland. Now we’re asking our leaders to do more to protect our rights and save lives,” said Captain Kelly, the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “Gabby and I are grateful to all of these incredible veterans and leaders who are using their voice to call for commonsense change that makes our communities safer.”

Captain Kelly was joined at the at the launch of the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense by his wife and the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. During her time in Congress, Congresswoman Giffords served on the House Armed Services Committee and was praised for her commitment to the men and women of our armed forces and our nation’s veterans. In 2011, she was recognized as the Honorary Military Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse magazine.

The Veterans Coalition for Common Sense builds on the success of Veterans for Responsible Solutions, launched in November 2013 when veterans from across the nation called on Congress to reduce gun violence following the tragic mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Today, over 20,000 former service members from all branches and nearly all ranks join more than 800,000 members of Americans for Responsible Solutions to advocate for responsible gun laws.

The coalition is focused on engaging other veterans and elected leaders by:

  • Urging our elected leaders to close the loopholes in our background check laws that let felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill buy guns without a criminal background check.
  • Strengthening existing laws and ensuring lawmakers and stakeholders have the resources and training they need to prevent gun tragedies.
  • Partnering with other groups in the veterans community on suicide prevention and mental health.

The Coalition is led by an Advisory Committee that is made up of a diverse group of men and women veterans from across the country – half of whom are retired three- and four-star Generals and Admirals and half of whom are younger veterans who fought for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to Captain Kelly, the Advisory Committee members of the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense include:

Captain Mark Kelly, USN (Ret.), Co-Founder, Americans for Responsible Solutions

Admiral Thad  Allen, USCG (Ret.)

General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA (Ret.)

General Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.)

General Michael V. Hayden, USAF (Ret.)

General (Ret.) James T. Hill, USA                                   

Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.)

General Stanley A. McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

Admiral Eric T. Olson, USN (Ret.)

General David Petraeus, USA (Ret.)

Lt. General Claudia J.  Kennedy, USA (Ret.)

Lt. General Norman R. Seip, USAF (Ret.)

Lt. General William “Kip” E. Ward, USA (Ret.)

Rear Admiral James Arden “Jamie” Barnett Jr., USN (Ret.)

Major General Vance Coleman, USA (Ret.)

Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.)

Brigadier General Evelyn “Pat” Foote, USA (Ret.)

Captain Gail Kulisch, USCG (Ret.)

Commander Carlos Del Toro, USN (Ret.)

Dave Korus, U.S. Air Force Veteran

Jonathan Sanford, U.S. Army Veteran

Terron Sims II, U.S. Army Veteran

Shawn J. VanDiver, U.S. Navy Veteran

“In our great country, gun violence is a disaster that left 33,000 dead last year, and more than 84,000 injured. We need to mount a national response. And that response must include some commonsense steps that keep guns out of the wrong hands, protect the Second Amendment rights of responsible people, and save lives,” said Admiral Thad Allen, United States Coast Guard (Ret.). “I want to thank Captain Kelly and Congresswoman Giffords for their leadership, and my fellow veterans for joining this fight for common sense and safer communities.”

“As a former Deputy Commander of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, I know that our Sailors had to be well versed in the use of firearms. I saw first hand the incredible power of firearms, and I know the precautions we taught to keep people safe.  But I also know the dangers guns pose when they are in the hands of dangerous people,” said Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, United States Navy (Ret.). “Making our communities safer from gun violence shouldn’t have to be a partisan idea – it’s just a commonsense idea. That’s why so many Americans – including veterans like me – support these policies. We’re standing together and demanding commonsense change because we have a responsibility to leave to our kids and grandkids a country that is safer from gun violence.”

“Each year, approximately 6,000 of our fellow veterans take their own life, and two-thirds of those veterans who choose to end their life do so with a gun. We know that this gun violence crisis has many causes, and therefore, that there is no single solution. But I’m joining this effort because I know that we can do better,” said Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, United States Marine Corps (Ret). “I’m honored to join with Captain Kelly and my fellow veterans to stand on the front lines in this fight to make our communities safer places to live.”

“As a proud veteran of our armed forces, I served to uphold our Constitution and the right of law-abiding Americans to own guns. I also know that with the freedom to own a gun comes the responsibility to help keep them out of the wrong hands,” said Commander Carlos Del Toro, United States Navy (Ret.). “I’m honored to join Captain Kelly and my fellow veterans today for the launch of this new and badly-needed effort to build safer communities.”

ABOUT THE GUN VIOLENCE IN THE UNITED STATES AND OUR VETERANS

Our country is in the clutches of a gun violence crisis that claimed more than 33,000 lives last year and left more than 84,000 Americans injured. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Since 1969, more Americans have been killed by gun violence than in all U.S. wars combined. [New York Times]

Between 2001 and 2010, 119,246 Americans were murdered with guns, 23 times all of the U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] [Children’s Defense Fund]

Between 2001 and 2011, nearly 70 percent of suicides among male veterans were committed with a firearm. [Veterans Health Administration]

Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide each day. [Department of Veterans Affairs]

Nearly two-thirds of all veteran suicides are completed with guns. [Department of Veterans Affairs]