CNN: Why Veterans Support Gun Background Checks

By Captain Mark Kelly

November 11, 2015 – Earlier this month in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on a quiet Saturday afternoon, one of our nation’s veterans went out for a bike ride.

Then, in a few random moments, that hero was dead — struck down by a bullet fired by a total stranger in a murderous rampage.

In an instant, Sgt. Andrew Alan Meyers — a 35-year-old father of two boys, 10 and 13, who served in our Army for a decade — had joined a grim group of his fellow Americans: the more than 10,000 who are killed with a gun every year.

Myers’ grieving grandfather acknowledged the sad irony of his death: “He spent three tours of duty in Iraq and came out of that all right, and then came home only to be shot by someone he didn’t even know.”

Myers’ death was a painful reminder of our country’s gun violence problem, one that affects virtually every community and claims too many lives.

That’s why two years ago today, on Veterans Day, I joined with more than 100 of my fellow veterans to form a new coalition in an effort to reduce gun violence in America. Our coalition is made up of retired flag officers, former enlisted service members of the U.S. armed forces and senior officers who know how to handle weapons, know the awesome power they possess, and have seen firsthand how they can be used for good in the hands of responsible people.

But we also know the damage these weapons can cause when they fall into the hands of dangerous people.

As service members in a war zone, we were committed to the responsible use of our weapons. We defended both the Constitution and the homeland.

Now we’re asking our leaders in Washington, and in statehouses and governor’s mansions around the country to protect our rights and families by keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill. We hope you will join us in calling for this commonsense change.

We’re joining in this fight because right now it’s far too easy for dangerous people like felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill to buy guns without a background check. Dr. Deborah Azrael, of Harvard’s Injury Control Research Center, according to a report in TheTrace found that in a survey of 2,072 gun owners, “roughly 40% said they’d acquired their most recent firearm (through a sale or transfer) without going through a background check.”

This might begin to explain why America has 20 times the gun murder rate of our peer countries.

The gaps in our laws might also help explain why since 1968, more Americans have died from guns in the United States than on battlefields of all the wars in our country’s history.

The number of Americans killed with guns make our country — an exceptional country that I and my fellow veterans risked our lives to defend — stand out in the worst of ways. We can do a lot better.

Some are quick to label people fighting for commonsense laws to reduce gun violence, like background checks, as “gun grabbers” and “anti-Second Amendment.”

It’s hard to take those claims seriously: As a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who exercises my Second Amendment right to own guns, I don’t want to take away anyone’s guns any more than I want to give up the six guns my wife, Gabrielle, and I have locked in a safe at our house in Tucson.

What we do want is what the majority of National Rifle Association members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws that reduce gun violence and protect the rights of law-abiding gun owners, like background checks for every person who buys a gun.

We are also not naive. We know that even the most commonsense solutions like closing the loopholes in our laws that let dangerous people buy guns without background checks won’t prevent every gun murder in our country. Gun violence is a really complex problem, and no single law will solve it. Stronger laws might not have spared Myers.

But if we can, say, cut in half the number of Americans slain with a gun each year, fewer families and communities would be shattered, and our country would be much safer. We think that’s worth fighting for.

Thirty-three years ago, my career in public service began with a single oath, one taken by every member of the armed forces: “To serve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

I hope that other veterans who took that same oath — and who want to see our beloved homeland become a safer place to live — will join us in this fight for some badly needed common sense.

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ARS Statement on Governor Chris Christie’s Conditional Veto of Bipartisan Bill to Close Gaps in New Jersey Law and Help Keep Guns Out of the Hands of Domestic Abusers

November 9, 2015 – Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention  organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, issued the below statement following Governor Chris Christie’s decision to conditionally veto a bipartisan, commonsense bill (A4218/S2786) that would have established effective procedures that will help limit domestic abusers’ access to guns by providing guidance and assurance to law enforcement, victims, and advocates.

“We’re disappointed to see that presidential politics got in the way of this bipartisan bill being signed into law. While we are continuing to evaluate Governor Christie’s proposal to expedite firearms licenses for people at risk in dangerous domestic violence situations,  there is no reason why the life-saving, commonsense provisions of this bipartisan legislation should be delayed any longer. Governor Christie’s proposed changes to this law do nothing to help keep guns out of the hands of abusers. We look forward to the key provisions of this bill being enacted by New Jersey’s next governor,” said Peter Ambler, Founder and (C)(4) Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions.

A4218 / S2786 would strengthen New Jersey’s laws and help protect domestic violence survivors by:

  • Requiring domestic abusers to surrender all of their guns if a domestic violence restraining order is in effect, or if they’re convicted of a domestic violence offense;
  • Suspending the gun purchaser ID cards and permits of abusers;
  • Revoking such cards if an abuser is convicted of a domestic violence crime; and,
  • Requiring the cross-checking of records to determine if an abuser owns a firearm.

This March, Congresswoman Giffords joined Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera and leaders in New Jersey’s domestic violence prevention community at an event at the New Jersey State House to urge legislators to pass laws like this one that protect women and families from gun violence.

BACKGROUND ON THE NEXUS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, DATING PARTNER ABUSE, STALKING, AND ACCESS TO FIREARMS

Women in the United States Are Eleven Times More Likely to be Murdered with a Gun Than Women in Other Developed Countries. More than half of all murders of America’s women are committed with a gun. [Centers for Disease Control, 2012]More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011] In 2013, a gun was the most commonly used weapon in a murder of a woman by a man. [Violence Policy Center, 2015]

Guns and Domestic Abuse Don’t Mix: Abused Women in the United States Are Five Times More Likely to be Killed by Their Abuser if That Individual Has Access to a Gun.[Centers for Disease Control, 2012]

Nearly Half of Murders by an Intimate Partner Are Committed by a Dating Partner – But the “Boyfriend Gap” in Federal Law Lets Abusive Dating Partners Access Guns: From 2009 to 2010, 48.6 percent of all intimate partner homicides were committed by a dating partner. [Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011] Current federal law prohibits individuals convicted of domestic violence offenses from accessing firearms, including individuals who are a current or former spouse, parent, parent of a child in common, current or former cohabitant, or a personal similarly situated to a spouse, parent or guardian of the victim. But federal law does not include perpetrators who abused current or former dating partners from accessing guns. With more women choosing to marry later in life and live in non-cohabitating dating relationships, this gap leaves a significant number of abusers free to access firearms. [Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence]

Stalking Is A Strong Predictor of Future Violence – But the “Stalker Gap” in Federal Law Lets Some Convicted Stalkers Access Guns: Stalking is a strong precursor to escalating violence. One study of female murder victims in ten cities found that 76 percent of women murdered and 85 percent who survived a murder attempt by a current or former intimate partner experienced stalking in the year preceding the murder. [Homicide Studies, 1999] Under current federal law, individuals convicted of felony stalking offenses are prohibited from accessing guns. But individuals convicted of misdemeanor stalking offenses are not prohibited from accessing guns. Closing the “stalker gap” in federal law would help ensure that all individuals convicted of stalking offenses are prohibited from accessing firearms. [Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence]

In the Face of Inaction in Congress, Blue, Purple and Red States Are Enacting Laws to Close These Loopholes and Limit Abusers’ and Stalkers’ Access to Guns. While each state has taken a distinct approach to strengthening laws that address gun violence against women, state leaders are addressing major gaps in federal law to help protect vulnerable women and families. At least 12 states have updated their laws to prohibit people convicted of violent misdemeanors against dating partners from possessing firearms. And 25 states prohibit gun possession by at least some people subject to protective orders for dating partners. In the last two years, leaders from both parties have enacted legislation addressing the often lethal mix of domestic violence and access to firearms in a number of states, including Alabama, DelawareLouisiana, Nevada,Oregon, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Americans from Both Parties Support Legislation Limiting Abusers’ and Stalkers’ Access to Guns. According to research conducted in June 2015, 82 percent of Americans – including 82 percent of Republicans – say they would support legislation that helps keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and stalkers. [Public Policy Polling]

ARS PAC Celebrates the Election of Jeremy McPike to the Virginia State Senate

November 3, 2015 – Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, tonight celebrated the election of Jeremy McPike to the Virginia State Senate. Building on statewide victories in Virginia in 2013 and 2014, Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC supported the campaign of Senator-Elect McPike with a targeted program to communicate with key voters, including independents and drop-off voters.

“For the third election in a row, we took on the gun lobby right in its own backyard and won. We congratulate Senator-Elect McPike on his election to the Virginia Senate. Senator-Elect McPike stood up to the gun lobby and stood with the vast majority of Virginians and Americans who support commonsense policies like background checks on all gun sales to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And once again, we saw that a candidate can run and win on their support for commonsense gun violence prevention policies like background checks,” said Hayley Zachary, Executive Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “We have no doubt Senator-Elect McPike will be a pragmatic, independent voice for Virginia’s families. We look forward to working with him to make Virginia a safer place to live.”

Key Takeaways From the McPike Victory:

  1. For three elections in a row, candidates in Virginia have shown you can support commonsense gun violence prevention laws like background checks and beat the candidates who oppose them. Like Governor McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, and Lt. Governor Ralph Northam in 2013 and Senator Mark Warner in 2014, Senators-Elect McPike showed in 2015 you can run and win on a message of responsible gun violence prevention laws, even in a purple state with a strong culture of gun ownership. Candidates should adopt gun violence prevention positions and messages to reach and sway “the deciders,” eg: independent women and other key voting demographics;

  2. Drop-off voters turnout in response to messaging about gun laws. Messaging on gun violence prevention policies like background checks for all gun sales is a critical turn-out tool for a targeted set of drop-off, low-propensity voters;  and,

  3. Voters see opposition to popular policies like background checks as extreme. Opposition to popular and effective policies like background checks on all gun sales allows ARS and other groups to brand candidates as extreme.

Public polling in Virginia also found that proposals to close loopholes in the gun background check system remain popular among likely voters in Virginia, with 77 percent of respondents saying they support proposals to make background checks for potential gun purchasers “more thorough.”

Highlights: 2015 ARS PAC Virginia Electoral Program in Support of Senator-Elect McPike

  • Direct Mail: Four pieces of mail to a universe of 7,868 persuasion voters and three pieces of GOTV mail to a universe of 5,015 households.

  • Digital: Robust digital persuasion program that included banner, mobile, Facebook and Twitter advertising, as well as video pre-roll advertising.SD29 was included in our GOTV digital program that included banner, Facebook, and pre-roll advertising encouraging Virginians to vote.

  • Contributions to Coordinated Field Program: ARS PAC also contributed to the coordinated field program in SD 29, and collected 4,098 IDs at voters’ doors. ARS PAC staff also assisted with the GOTV canvass.

ARS PAC Calls on VA Senate Candidates Hal Parrish & Glen Sturtevant to Release Their Responses to the Corporate Gun Lobby’s Questionnaires

October 30, 2015– Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, the gun violence prevention organization founded by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, today called on Virginia Senate District 29 candidate Hal Parrish and Senate District 10 candidate Glen Sturtevant to release their responses to questionnaires required by the National Rifle Association, which is financially backing the candidacies of Parrish and Sturtevant.

“It’s time for Mr. Parrish and Mr. Sturtevant to tell Virginians what they told the corporate gun lobby about what they would and would not do to reduce gun violence if elected. Given the tragedies Virginians have been through from Virginia Tech to Roanoke, we are demanding that candidates for office say where they stand on commonsense laws that would help make the commonwealth safer from gun violence,” said Hayley Zachary, Executive Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC. “Virginians deserve to know exactly where the people seeking to represent them stand on the serious issues impacting their community – and they deserve to know if the people who want to be their voice in Richmond stand with them, or stand with the gun lobby.”

Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC is supporting Mr. Parrish’s opponent in the Senate District 10 race, Jeremy McPike and Mr. Sturtevant’s opponent in the Senate District 29 race, Dan Gecker, with a targeted program of voter communication that includes online advertising, radio advertising, direct mail, and live and recorded telephone calls to key voters. The targeted program is supported by a six-figure investment. Both Dan Gecker and Jeremy McPike have said they support closing the loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers buy guns without a background check.

The Hill: “Giffords kicks off new gun reform push to protect women”

Giffords kicks off new gun reform push to protect women (The Hill)

By Mike Lillis

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Wednesday launched a new campaign aimed to protect women from gun violence.

The bipartisan coalition — an eclectic mix of female policymakers, law enforcers, educators, activists and Hollywood stars — is designed both to highlight the gun threat facing women and to promote the policy changes to combat the scourge nationwide.

Giffords, who was nearly killed in a shooting rampage in her Tucson district in 2011, said the problem is urgent and demands an immediate response.

“We have a problem in our country,” Giffords said during a conference in Washington examining domestic violence. “Too many women are dying from gun violence.”

Dubbed the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense, the campaign is urging tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people, including convicted stalkers and domestic abusers.

Aside from Giffords, the group includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R), former GOP Rep. Connie Morella (Md.), Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, and the actress Alyssa Milano.

“We don’t have to agree about everything, but we can agree on this: Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women,” Giffords said. “Criminals with guns. Abusers with guns. Stalkers with guns.

“That makes gun violence a women’s issue.”

The group comes furnished with a number of daunting statistics.

• A woman in the United States is 11 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed countries, they note, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

• Between 1980 and 2008, firearms were the weapon of choice in more than two-thirds of all spouse and ex-spouse homicides, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

• Access to firearms by domestic abusers makes their female victims five times more likely to be killed, the CDC found in 2012.

Janeé Harteau, chief of police in Minneapolis, said the focus on gender is an appropriate one as law enforcers and policymakers seek ways to rein in gun violence against women.

“When is the last time you saw you a woman shoot up a school?” she asked. “You don’t. … The reality is women are brought up differently.

“We’re losing both sexes, because our men are going to prison and our women and children are dying,” Harteau added. “We need to do something.”

The effort arrives as the issue of gun violence is again churning national headlines following several high-profile shootings around the country.

In August, a pair of television reporters, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, were shot and killed during a live broadcast in Roanoke, Va., by a disgruntled former employee who posted the grisly episode online. And this month, a 26-year-old gunman killed nine people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself at a a community college in Roseburg, Ore.

“The idea that we have to worry about gun violence when one of our children goes to a movie, or a school, or to work, is sickening,” Barbara Parker, mother of Alison Parker, said Wednesday. “Parents should not have to live with that kind of fear.”

She urged people to vote for lawmakers who support tougher laws aimed at keeping violent people from accessing guns.

Such reforms have no chance of moving through a Congress controlled by Republicans who are near-universal in their opposition to new restrictions on firearms. But the string of tragedies has propelled the issue of gun violence onto the presidential campaign stage in a way unseen in recent cycles.

The debate is largely one of sharp partisan disagreement; most Republicans oppose tougher gun laws and most Democrats support them. But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a Democratic hopeful, has recently been under fire from the left for a history of voting against new gun restrictions — an unusual predicament for the liberal icon. And Hillary Clinton, the front-running Democrat, made sure to highlight that record during Tuesday night’s presidential debate.

“We have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence,” Clinton said in hammering Sanders’s record on the issue. “This has gone on too long, and it’s time the entire country stood up against the NRA.”

Giffords, for one, would surely agree.

“We can change our laws. We can fight for responsible solutions,” she said Wednesday to a standing ovation. “Together, we can make women and their families safer.”

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