Former Rep. Gabby Giffords on gun violence: ‘This is a women’s issue’
By Joel Connelly
October 22, 2014- Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords prepares to take the stage during a panel discussion about gun violence against women. Photographed on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle. (Joshua Trujillo, seattlepi.com)
Ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords walks slowly with a cane and talks slowly. But the former congresswoman who was victim of an assassin puts powerful emphasis on every word that she speaks.
”Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women,” Giffords told a lunch of Initiative 594 supporters on Wednesday. ”Abusers with guns, criminals with guns make this a women’s issue.”
Giffords was making the last stop on a nine-city tour, advocating for measures and candidates who would curb gun violence. She has traveled from Portland, Maine, to Portland, Ore. and finally to Seattle. Washington voters have received their ballots and will decide whether to require criminal background checks for those purchasing firearms at gun shows or online.
Giffords was a centerist three-term Arizona congresswoman, a firearms owner and gun-rights defender. She was holding an open-air town meeting at a Tucson mall when a mentally deranged young man, Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire. He killed six people including a federal judge, a House aide and a 9-year old girl. Thirteen others were wounded.
Giffords and her husband, retired NASA Space Shuttle astronaut Mark Kelly, have since formed a group called Americans for Responsible Solutions. The couple have taken on the Gun Lobby. The appearance Wednesday was Gifford’s second to the state in support of background checks.
The contest over I-594 shows signs of tightening.
The National Rifle Association has worked to work up its members. It has fielded a list of 24 sheriffs (up from 22 on Tuesday), mostly from rural counties, opposing I-594. The Gun Lobby has shown firepower in Washington, helping unseat House Speaker Tom Foley in 1994 and defeating a trigger locks initiative in 1997.
The luncheon with Giffords was unsettling in one key respect.
Killing of urban young people, from recent college graduates to gang bangers, has been a feature of gun violence in Washington. (The state experiences a greater number of gun deaths than traffic fatalities on its highways.) So have the anguished cries of mothers and kinfolk.
Yet, the Wednesday luncheon, held at the Washington Athletic Club, was almost devoid of women of color. The five panelists talking about gun violence and its consequences — a discussion centered on domestic violence — were lily white.
Two panelists spoke to personal experience with gun violence.
Terese Todd, a victim of domestic violence in Tennessee, spoke to the culture of her native state: ”In Tennessee, everybody had a pickup truck. Everybody had a gun rack. Everybody owned a gun.”
But, she added, ”To be honest, there are people too dangerous to own guns.”
The Washington Legislature refused to act on background check legislation, but did pass HB 1840. ”The gun of a domestic violence perpetrator can be confiscated immediately,” said State Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
She was followed, however, by Rory Graves, whose mother was shot by her mother’s husband two years ago, seriously injured and not expected to live. Graves, a mother of three, has provided a home during her mother’s recovery.
”I worried that he would come back,” she said. ”He knows where I live. I worried that my mom’s shooter would use that loophole (to acquire a gun).”
The state of Washington has 1,416 licensed gun dealers. Purchasers of firearms at a gun store undergo a criminal background check. Purchasers at gun shows, or those who buy or arrange sales on line, do not.
The pro-I-594 forces received another shot of campaign cash on Tuesday, a $360,000 donation from Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded by ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Everytown has now put $2.339 million into the I-594 campaign.
The campaign has now taken in nearly $9.8 million. Will it be enough to pass a gun safety initiative in a Western state?
”We can together win elections: Please join your voice with mine,” Giffords said Wednesday.