Huffington Post: “Gabby Giffords Speaks Out On Gun Violence Against Women”

WASHINGTON — In a rare public speech Wednesday, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) spoke out about the need to pass “common-sense” gun bills that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

“Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women,” Giffords told a crowd at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. “Criminals with guns. Stalkers with guns. Abusers with guns. That makes gun violence a women’s issue.”

In 2011, Giffords was shot point-blank in the head while meeting with constituents near Tucson, Ariz. She and her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, started a gun violence prevention PAC called Americans for Responsible Solutions to help elect candidates supportive of key legislation to prevent gun violence.

Giffords and Kelly spoke Wednesday at a discussion of policy solutions to protect women from gun violence, sponsored by the Center for American Progress. One such solution, a bill proposed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), would add convicted stalkers and non-cohabiting dating partners to the list of domestic abusers who cannot legally purchase a gun. Statistics show that stalking often leads to physical abuse and homicide, but a new report released by CAP on Wednesday found that there are at least 11,986 convicted stalkers living in the United States who can walk into a store, pass a background check and legally purchase a firearm.

Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy captain and former astronaut, said he and Giffords are both responsible gun owners and that he believes the vast majority of gun owners use their weapons safely. But part of protecting the Second Amendment, he said, is ensuring that the right is exercised responsibly.

“Today we’re talking about keeping guns out of the hands of men who stalk and abuse women,” Kelly said. “We’re talking about passing laws that will absolutely save lives, especially the lives of women. … Today we are closer than ever to doing this, but we can’t do it if we don’t all work together.”

ARS is advocating for Klobuchar’s bill, for stronger background checks and for prohibiting the sale of firearms to domestic violence abusers under restraining orders by encouraging faster record reporting into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) have introduced additional legislation in the House and Senate to prohibit domestic abusers from buying and owning guns. Capps’ bill would extend federal firearms prohibitions to abusive dating partners who are subject to a domestic violence restraining order, and it would allow a judge to issue a temporary protective order to bar an abuser from possessing or purchasing a weapon in the days between a woman leaving her partner and the court hearing.

Blumenthal’s bill would also prevent alleged domestic abusers with temporary restraining orders issued against them from purchasing guns. Current gun restrictions only apply to permanent restraining orders, leaving a loophole in which some abusers can quickly buy guns.

A bill that would have strengthened background checks for gun purchases failed to pass the Senate last year, but ARS hopes to stack Congress with like-minded lawmakers this November. The group is jumping into seven Senate and four House races this election cycle, and it has calculated that Republican and independent women voters in swing states are more likely to support candidates who would vote to keep guns away from domestic abusers.

“Together we can change our laws,” Giffords said Wednesday. “Together we can win elections. Please join your voice with mine.”

Captain Mark Kelly Statement on Gov. Hassan’s Signing of Bill to Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Domestic Abusers

TUCSON, AZ - Captain Mark Kelly, Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, issued the following statement after New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan signed legislation known as “Joshua’s Law” into law. Named in honor of a young man shot by his father at a New Hampshire YWCA last year, the bill makes domestic violence a distinct crime, which up until now has not existed in New Hampshire’s criminal statutes. Under the bill, domestic violence would include violent actions, threats or stalking by a person’s spouse, intimate partner, or other household members. Domestic violence is involved in half of the homicides committed in New Hampshire and 92 percent of the state’s murder-suicides:

“Allowing domestic abusers and stalkers to get their hands on guns puts the most vulnerable women in our communities at risk. Without a clear legal distinction of what constitutes domestic violence, it has been difficult for the state of New Hampshire to determine which names to submit to the background check system. By making New Hampshire the 36th state to consider domestic violence its own category of crime, this legislation will help better identify domestic violence misdemeanants when conducting a background check. This is yet another example of a balanced approach to keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and preventing gun violence. While Congress has failed to act on this issue, it is encouraging to see New Hampshire’s leaders working together to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands. Gabby and I applaud Governor Hassan for signing this commonsense legislation into law. There is no doubt that this new law will make Granite State families safer from gun violence.”

Americans for Responsible Solutions and National Domestic Violence Hotline Release New Toolkit to Help State and Local Leaders Protect Women From Gun Violence

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired combat veteran and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline today announced a new report and toolkit, “Saving Women’s Lives,” to serve as a resource for state and local leaders to adopt best practices that will help protect women from gun violence.

In conjunction with release of the toolkit, ARS Co-Founder Gabrielle Giffords also announced the “#ProtectAllWomen” campaign urging women at state and local levels to work with leaders on the ground and encourage them to use the toolkit and resources to strengthen laws that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers. The campaign will include targeted digital outreach and leadership training for women around the country.

“Gun violence is a women’s issue. Criminals, stalkers, and abusers with guns are a threat to women,” said Congresswoman Giffords. “We must act to protect women from gun violence.”

“Every day our advocates at The Hotline hear stories of women who are being threatened, hurt or stalked by current or former partners with access to firearms. These women are living in fear for their lives and those of their loved ones. It is our hope that victims, and those who care about their safety, draw on the best practices identified in this toolkit,” said Katie Ray-Jones, president and acting CEO of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The new resource titled “Saving Women’s Lives: Ending Firearms Violence Against Intimate Partners,” provides local leaders – including state courts, prosecutors, law enforcement, and victim advocates – recommendations on best practices that protect victims of abuse from gun violence. It also highlights the importance of strong partnerships between states and the federal government in improving the effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and enforcement of existing federal gun laws.

Among the best practices, policies and laws recommended in the toolkit:

Ways state courts can improve findings in protection orders that meet requirements of federal firearms laws;

Steps for state and local law enforcement to improve their lethality assessment programs when responding to domestic violence incidents;

State prosecutors should adopt protocols for ensuring that information required to conduct a federal firearms background check is in court records and plea agreements; and,

State legislatures can give law enforcement and court officials the tools they need to be most effective.

Click here to view the full report and toolkit.

Guns play a lethal role in domestic violence in the the United States:

American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than women in other developed countries, and 22 percent of deaths caused by domestic abusers are gun-related.

Forty-four percent of women killed by guns are murdered by a current or former partner and each month, an average of 46 women are shot to death by a current or former husband or boyfriend.

The majority of mass shootings in the United States also involve instances of domestic violence.

Access to firearms increases the risk of intimate partner homicide upwards of five times more than in instances where there are no weapons.

Last month, Congresswoman Giffords delivered a petition signed by more than 50,000 Americans to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy requesting a hearing on the nexus of gun violence against women and domestic violence. Yesterday, Giffords framed gun violence prevention as a women’s issue in a speech at the #ProtectAllWomen gun violence panel.

Research: Women Across Political Spectrum Support Stronger Laws to Prevent Gun Violence

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Research conducted over the last year in key states on voter attitudes about gun ownership and violence conducted on behalf of Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, retired combat veteran and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, finds that women across the political spectrum support stronger gun violence prevention laws. The research also found that key voting groups like independent and unmarried women are less likely to support candidates who oppose background checks.

The findings from statewide surveys and focus groups of registered and likely voters in Arizona, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Nevada, Alaska, Virginia and Texas show that 83 percent of Republican women support closing current loopholes by requiring background checks on all gun sales. In every state surveyed, the research also showed that women were more likely than men to support stronger laws to prevent gun violence. While Democratic men and women supported stronger laws at similar rates, independent women and Republican women support gun violence prevention policies at higher rates than men with respective political affiliations. In Alaska, for example, there is a 25-point gap between Republican men and women on support for background checks.

There is also broad support for laws that protect women from gun violence by keeping guns out of domestic abusers’ hands. Democratic, Republican and independent women support these policies at nearly identical rates, while support among Republican and independent men declines by 20 points.

The research also found that women – particularly unmarried women, independent women, moms, and Hispanic women – are important electoral targets for messaging on gun violence prevention. Women in these key voting subgroups are less likely to support candidates who oppose background checks, the research showed, and more likely to support candidates or stronger gun violence prevention laws after hearing about both sides of the debate over gun laws.

A memo on the research conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research on behalf of Americans for Responsible Solutions can be found here.

“This research is yet another confirmation that not only do huge majorities of voters across the political spectrum support commonsense policies that reduce gun violence, there is huge upside among key women voters for candidates who talk about reducing gun violence. The lesson is clear: not only can candidates effectively talk about responsible gun ownership and win, they should,” said Pia Carusone, ARS Senior Advisor.

USA Today: “Gabby Giffords’ PAC picks 11 races for election fight”

The political action committee created by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband to reduce gun violence will pump money into seven Senate contests and four House races this year.

“We need leaders who are ready to shatter the tired myth that you can’t be both pro-gun rights and pro-gun violence prevention,” Giffords’ husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, said Tuesday in announcing the group’s plans.

Americans for Responsible Solutions plans to back one Senate Republican so far – Maine Sen. Susan Collins, one of just four Republicans in the Senate who voted last year to expand background checks for gun purchasers. The measure failed to pass the Senate.

The super PAC will support five Democratic incumbents in competitive Senate races: Sens. Al Franken in Minnesota, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hamphire, and Mark Udall in Colorado. It also backs Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, who is running unopposed in his Senate primary.

In House races, the PAC will aid Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., New Hampshire Democratic Reps. Carol Shea-Porter and Ann McLane Kuster and Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz. Barber, a  former Giffords’ aide, now holds her old seat in Congress.

Giffords resigned from the House in 2012. She was shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011, during a shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people and wounded 13, including Barber.

Pia Carusone, the PAC’s senior adviser, said the group does not have a budget for its spending in this year’s election. It has reported raising $14.5 million through the end of March, and she said it will exceed its initial $20 million fundraising goal.

She said the group may get involved in other races as the November election draws closer. In its first round of targets, the organization steered clear of Alaska Sen. Mark Begich and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, two vulnerable Democratic incumbents who bucked their party last year to oppose the background-check measure.

Carusone said the Republican candidates in those Senate races don’t back gun-control.  “It’s not part of our DNA … to defeat candidates who would be replaced by people who are worse on this issue,” she said.

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