The Des Moines Register
By Sharyn Jackson
October 22, 2014- Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made the case that gun violence is a women’s issue at a Tuesday roundtable with Iowa leaders working in law enforcement and domestic violence prevention.
Giffords, who was critically injured in a 2011 assassination attempt, came to Des Moines halfway through a nine-state tour to rally women in the fight for gun reform.
”Women can lead the way,” she said, slowly. ”We stand for common sense.”
On Jan. 8, 2011, the Arizona congresswoman was at a public event near Tucson to meet with constituents when a man opened fire, shooting Giffords in the head, injuring 13 others and killing six. Giffords remains partly paralyzed. Her speech is slurred, but clear.
Since the shooting, Giffords has become one of the country’s foremost gun reform advocates. But federal legislation imposing stricter regulations on gun ownership has failed, even after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.
Giffords spoke once Tuesday, in her opening remarks. She told the group of 17 leaders, all women, that criminals, abusers and stalkers who have access to guns are a threat to women and families.
State Rep. Marti Anderson, D-Des Moines, then moderated the discussion, asking questions of attendees who represented the Iowa Department of Public Health, the FBI and the Iowa Department of Public Safety, as well as several nonprofits and coalitions against violence.
Anderson described the intersection of guns and domestic violence as a ”lethal combination.”
The group discussed ways to approach gun owners about the issues of gun violence and reform. ”This conversation has been divisive,” said Hayley Zachary, executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions, the organization founded by Giffords and her husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly.
”None of the policies that we advocate threaten” the right to own guns, Zachary said. ”The question is, what are the pillars of responsible gun ownership?”
A 2010 state law restricts domestic abusers from possessing firearms. But advocates at the roundtable said more can be done, including extending that law to dating partners.
Anderson said she plans on convening the group again to continue the discussion.
”Sitting next to Gabby Giffords, a woman of high resiliency, high courage and public service, renews me to fight this issue at the state level,” Anderson said.
Ellyn Grimm, Iowa chapter leader of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said Giffords is an ”inspirational” leader for women in Iowa.
”She’s been through what most of us would consider our worst nightmare,” Grimm said, ”and she’s risen above it.”
Giffords’ next stop on the Protect All Women tour is Portland, Ore.