Gabby Giffords Op-Ed in USA Today

This op-ed was originally published in USA Today:

One year ago Thursday, the United States Senate failed us.

It was last April — mere months after the senseless slaughter of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. — that a minority of senators blocked legislation that would have made it harder for criminals and people with dangerous mental illnesses to get their hands on deadly firearms.

Given the opportunity to stand up to the gun lobby by supporting legislation favored by two-thirds of Americans, these senators did what all politicians do when they fear upsetting powerful interests: They voted for the status quo.

These were some of the same senators who had sat across the table from the grieving parents of children massacred at Sandy Hook or who looked me in the eye as I told them what it is like to learn to walk and talk again after a bullet from a madman’s gun nearly took my life.

I say now what I said then: There is more work to do. So today, I am not wasting my time focusing on this single setback in what we have always known would be a long, hard haul.

I am looking to a safer future: on Wednesday I was in Mobile, Ala., for the keel-laying ceremony of the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a Navy vessel that, once completed, will help protect our country. It will be tough, steely and ready to do the hard things, the same qualities that we should expect from our leaders in Washington.

Today, I am also alarmed by the lack of focus on the recent tragedies at Fort Hood and centers of Jewish life in Kansas City. I cannot help but wonder: Were there too few victims for this to capture our attention?

Take the Fort Hood shooting: Instead of a serious discussion on the connections between mental health and gun violence, most of what I heard were some members of Congress on TV arguing for allowing guns on bases, even though our military leaders say this would make servicemembers less safe.

We need a comprehensive approach: a surge in mental health services, mental health “first aid” programs to identify and intervene in problems before it’s too late, and a background check system that will stop the most dangerous among us from buying guns, by getting records in the system and closing the Internet and gun-show loopholes.

The many members of Congress who refuse to take action to make our communities safer surely hope the shameful lack of attention on the root causes of gun violence, and steps to prevent it, means that the call for action is fading, and we are giving up. Far from it.

Today, the organization founded by my husband, Mark, and me, Americans for Responsible Solutions, stands stronger than ever. Since our founding, more than 500,000 Americans have joined, and more than 160,000 Americans have donated. That’s why we are more ready than ever to take our fight to the state and local level.

We have done our homework, and the numbers don’t lie: From Texas to New Hampshire and everywhere in between, we know that support for policies such as expanded background checks continue to be popular in both parties. Gun owners and non-gun owners alike agree on expanding background checks, making gun trafficking a serious crime with stiff penalties, making it illegal for all stalkers and all domestic abusers to buy guns, and expanding mental health resources so the mentally ill find it easier to receive treatment than to buy firearms.

This is why common-sense gun policies are a winning political issue. Still, we are not naive; we understand that there will always be some in Congress who remain paralyzed by the grip of the gun lobby. Leaders at the National Rifle Association, who get paid handsomely for shilling for inaction and peddling fear, will be a force this fall.

But so will we. In the absence of a Congress ready to act to reduce gun violence, we will keep working to create a different Congress.

And come November, surely some of those politicians who were unwilling to stand up to the gun lobby a year ago will face the consequences at the ballot box. They will wish desperately that they had heeded the will of their constituents.

Captain Mark Kelly Statement on Anniversary of Virginia Tech Massacre

Captain Mark Kelly, Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, issued the following statement on the 7th anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre:

“The events of April 16th, 2007 shattered lives and our idea that a college campus can be a place free from the horrors of gun violence. For the families of those whose lives were lost on that tragic day, Gabby and I know the pain will never go away – just as it will never go away for the families of Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, and so many more communities across our country. Like the shooting in Tucson, the Virginia Tech massacre was a reminder of the tragic loss that can occur when untreated mental illness and guns are combined. In the case of the Virginia Tech massacre, a young man who had been adjudicated mentally ill exploited loopholes in state reporting and got his hands on a gun. Unspeakable horror was the result.
“Virginia Tech is also a reminder that a state and a nation can respond to tragedy by making its communities safer. Virginia is now a national leader in submitting records of the dangerously mentally ill to the national background check system. And the citizens of the Commonwealth recently voted three gun safety advocates into the three statewide elective offices. This is why we continue to fight for common-sense policies, like strengthening mental health reporting and expanded background checks, that will help protect our rights as gun owners and reduce gun violence.”

Captain Mark Kelly Statement on Fort Hood Shooting

Captain Mark Kelly, co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, issued the following statement after today’s shooting at Fort Hood:

“Once again, the Fort Hood community came under attack. And tonight, Gabby and I are sending our thoughts and prayers to the victims of this tragedy. Like so many Americans, we feel anger and loss, but also gratitude for the soldiers, civilians and first responders who are acting today with such courage and compassion for the injured, who may have a long road ahead of them. And we know that nothing – nothing – will bring comfort to the families who lost loved ones today. As a proud military family, Gabby and I are sickened that, once again, those who dedicate themselves to keeping America safe were injured not in a war in foreign lands, but in a shooting here at home.”

ARS Statement on Supreme Court Ruling That Will Help Keep Guns Out of Hands of Domestic Abusers

Pia Carusone, Executive Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions, issued the following statement today on the United States Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Castleman. In its opinion, the Court unanimously upheld a federal law prohibiting individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence offenses from possessing guns, even in states where proof of physical violence is not required to support the domestic violence charge. A gun in a household with a history of domestic violence increases the risk by 20 times that a woman will be killed there, compared to households without guns:

“Federal law prohibits domestic abusers from possessing guns, and, today, the United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld that key protection for women. Congress should take note: our nation’s highest court sees no infringement on rights in laws that aim to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. This is one more reason why it is time for Congress to renew its focus on the dangerous connections between domestic abuse and gun violence by preventing all stalkers and domestic abusers from accessing firearms. When it comes to protecting women and their families, Congress should leave no stone unturned.”

ARS Campaign Against Georgia’s “Guns Everywhere Bill” Ramps Up Pressure On Lawmakers, Governor

As negotiations on the Georgia legislature’s “Guns Everywhere Bill” continue in the back rooms of the State Capitol and a midnight deadline approaches for lawmakers to act before the legislative session ends, a targeted Georgia campaign by Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), an organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and retired combat veteran and astronaut Captain Mark Kelly to support responsible gun ownership, continues to ramp up pressure on lawmakers, Governor Deal, and Lieutenant Governor Cagle to stop extreme provisions in the legislation, including sections that would allow guns into our children’s classrooms, airports, and other sensitive areas.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll recently found that more than 70 percent of Georgians are opposed to the bill’s central provisions.

This week, provisions originally included in HB 875 were added to another legislative vehicle, HB 60, which passed the Senate quickly and with little deliberation close to midnight on Tuesday, stoking fears of backroom dealing and raising concerns that the Senate did not have the time to adequately understand and consider the package. The bill is now again being considered by the House.

“The bill is extremism in action; it moves Georgia out of the mainstream,” said Pia Carusone, Executive Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “Since the Georgia House first passed this expansive legislation, thousands of Georgians and tens of thousands of Americans have said loud and clear that they are tired of the gun lobby advancing its extreme agenda at the expense of their families’ safety. Georgians oppose the bill’s extreme provisions, and now their elected officials are hearing about it every day. We hope they don’t send the bill to Governor Deal while their constituents sleep.”

Close to midnight Tuesday, the Georgia Senate passed HB 60, an amended version of HB 875, which is now being considered by the House.

Lawmakers have until midnight tonight to agree to the bill and send it to Governor Deal, assign a conference committee to determine final language, or not consider the legislation.

Since the Georgia House passed HB 875, ARS launched a campaign to stop consideration of the bill, including:

  • Mobilizing 2,598 Georgians to call and more than 1,300 to email Governor Nathan Deal and Lt. Governor Cagle to pressure them to stop the bill;
  • Alerting more than 20,000 Georgia ARS members to the public safety concerns the bill raises;
  • Delivering a petition signed by 8,750 ARS members in Georgia asking the Senate to stop consideration of HB 875;
  • Gathering 50,000 signatures of ARS members from around the country on a petition opposing the legislation, which would ease access of guns into Atlanta’s airport, the world’s busiest; and,
  • Releasing an ad, titled “Guns Everywhere,” to educate Georgians on what their state legislature was trying to do:

HB 875 has already passed the State House and would allow K-12 teachers, administrators, staff, students aged 18, or anyone authorized by a local school board to carry firearms anywhere on school grounds; decriminalize campus carry; allow people to carry guns in houses of worship and bars, unless the organization specifically opted out (forcing acrimonious debates in churches over gun policy); allow guns in state and local government buildings, libraries, city council meetings, and senior centers; and it would decriminalize the act of attempting to bring a gun into the TSA-secured areas of Georgia airports, thereby impacting not only Georgia residents, but also the tens of millions of people from around the country and the world who pass through Georgia airports every year.

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