ARS and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence Statement on Mass Shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida

June 12, 2016 – Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS) and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence condemned the horrific mass shooting early Sunday at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL, and the weak gun laws that enable gun violence rates in the United States to outpace other developed nations by orders of magnitude.

ARS and the Law Center recently merged, joining forces to create a powerful new force for gun safety legislation, education, communications, and advocacy under the leadership of  former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, the leading voices in the movement to keep guns out of the wrong hands and save lives from gun violence.

“In our national sorrow, in our solidarity with our fellow Americans in the LGTBQ community, there is so much we can do—as a nation of laws—to prevent future gun tragedies. It’s critical to remember that all too often our mourning is the manifestation of our failures to prevent tragedy,” said Peter Ambler, Director, Americans for Responsible Solutions. “We have background checks that work to stop gun sales to criminals at gun stores, but we tolerate loopholes that allow millions of gun sales to occur every year with no background check at all. We know guns in the hands of domestic abusers increases the risk an abuse victim will be murdered by 500 percent – and is how over half of mass shootings begin – but Congress drags its feet. We prevent suspected terrorists from boarding airplanes, but we allow them to legally purchase guns. And more. It’s on us. We will mourn. But we should also use our voices to call for responsibility and safety, and we should vote our commitment to these core American values.”

“In the past year alone we’ve witnessed deadly shootings in schools, churches, movie theaters, military recruiting centers, government facilities, and even on live TV,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Now, we face the deadliest mass shooting in American history, with over 100 people shot in a single attack. This is not a record anyone wanted to see broken, but violence at such a large scale was inevitable given the permissiveness of gun laws in America. It’s far too easy for those who intend to do harm—whether they’re terrorists, bigots, domestic abusers, or dangerously mentally ill—to get their hands on guns. Our hearts go out to the victims of this incomprehensible tragedy and to the LGBTQ community, and we vow to keep fighting for the smart gun laws that we know save lives.”

“As Congresswoman Giffords’ Chief of Staff at the time of the Tucson shooting, as a former Assistant Secretary at DHS, as a former executive director at ARS, and as a board member of the Gay & Lesbian Victory fund and a proud member of the LGTBQ community, I know the tragedy in Orlando poses myriad challenges to our first responders, to Congress, and to our nation,” said Pia Carusone, Senior Advisor, Americans for Responsible Solutions.“We should applaud the first responders and citizens on the scene who administered first aid to victims. We must thank the law enforcement who bravely responded and helped prevent even further death. And we need to call upon Congress to act as we respond to yet another mass shooting.  Today also calls for compassion: Reach out to your gay and lesbian fellow citizens. As they feel the vulnerability of being the targets of the largest mass shooting in history, let them know they have the support of their friends and family and a whole nation of Americans behind them.”

ABOUT FLORIDA’S GUN LAWS

Florida has some of the worst gun laws in the nation, regularly scoring an F in the Law Center’s annual Gun Law State Scorecard. It fails to require background checks for private sales, does not restrict access to assault weapons or large capacity magazines, has incredibly weak standards for allowing people to carry guns in public, and even bars doctors from speaking about firearm safety with their patients. Learn more about gun laws in Florida at http://smartgunlaws.org/FL.

Statement by Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly on the Tragic Mass Shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida

June 12, 2016 Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, the Co-Founders of the gun violence prevention organization Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), issued the below statement following this morning’s mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida:

“This is a sad and dark day for this country we all love.

“We want to say that this tragedy is unthinkable. But it is not.

“Once again, a mass shooting has torn a community apart. Make no mistake: Our country is in the grips of a gun violence crisis. It claimed at least 50 lives early this morning. It claimed 33,000 lives last year.

“Some will say that our nation must accept this as the new normal. Some will say that there is nothing we can do to make our country safer from gun violence. It’s not true. We cannot let armed ambushes become the new normal in our country. We have to do better than this. And we can. We have to do more to ensure hatred doesn’t find its evil voice in the crack of a gunshot. We are heartbroken that this attack allegedly targeted our country’s LGBTQ community as they celebrated Pride Month.

“We are incredibly grateful to the first responders who acted so bravely this morning to save lives and bring this horror to an end. We grieve for those taken and with their loved ones, and we pray for strength for the injured. Our hearts and prayers are in Orlando and with our fellow Americans in the LGBTQ community.”

Mark Kelly, David Petraeus, Stanley McChrystal, Michael Hayden, Thad Allen, Wesley Clark and Other Veteran Leaders Launch New “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense” to Urge Elected Leaders to Do More to Prevent Gun Tragedies

June 10, 2016 Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, today joined with veteran leaders from across the country to announce the Advisory Committee of a new national effort, the “Veterans Coalition for Common Sense,” to urge our country’s elected leaders to do more to prevent gun tragedies. The coalition brings together veterans from every branch of our military who are committed to urging our elected leaders to enact responsible change that respects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans, helps keep guns out of the wrong hands, and saves lives.

“As service members, each of us swore an oath to protect our Constitution and the homeland. Now we’re asking our leaders to do more to protect our rights and save lives,” said Captain Kelly, the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions. “Gabby and I are grateful to all of these incredible veterans and leaders who are using their voice to call for commonsense change that makes our communities safer.”

Captain Kelly was joined at the at the launch of the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense by his wife and the Co-Founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. During her time in Congress, Congresswoman Giffords served on the House Armed Services Committee and was praised for her commitment to the men and women of our armed forces and our nation’s veterans. In 2011, she was recognized as the Honorary Military Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse magazine.

The Veterans Coalition for Common Sense builds on the success of Veterans for Responsible Solutions, launched in November 2013 when veterans from across the nation called on Congress to reduce gun violence following the tragic mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. Today, over 20,000 former service members from all branches and nearly all ranks join more than 800,000 members of Americans for Responsible Solutions to advocate for responsible gun laws.

The coalition is focused on engaging other veterans and elected leaders by:

  • Urging our elected leaders to close the loopholes in our background check laws that let felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill buy guns without a criminal background check.
  • Strengthening existing laws and ensuring lawmakers and stakeholders have the resources and training they need to prevent gun tragedies.
  • Partnering with other groups in the veterans community on suicide prevention and mental health.

The Coalition is led by an Advisory Committee that is made up of a diverse group of men and women veterans from across the country – half of whom are retired three- and four-star Generals and Admirals and half of whom are younger veterans who fought for our country in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to Captain Kelly, the Advisory Committee members of the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense include:

Captain Mark Kelly, USN (Ret.), Co-Founder, Americans for Responsible Solutions

Admiral Thad  Allen, USCG (Ret.)

General Peter W. Chiarelli, USA (Ret.)

General Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.)

General Michael V. Hayden, USAF (Ret.)

General (Ret.) James T. Hill, USA                                   

Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.)

General Stanley A. McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

Admiral Eric T. Olson, USN (Ret.)

General David Petraeus, USA (Ret.)

Lt. General Claudia J.  Kennedy, USA (Ret.)

Lt. General Norman R. Seip, USAF (Ret.)

Lt. General William “Kip” E. Ward, USA (Ret.)

Rear Admiral James Arden “Jamie” Barnett Jr., USN (Ret.)

Major General Vance Coleman, USA (Ret.)

Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.)

Brigadier General Evelyn “Pat” Foote, USA (Ret.)

Captain Gail Kulisch, USCG (Ret.)

Commander Carlos Del Toro, USN (Ret.)

Dave Korus, U.S. Air Force Veteran

Jonathan Sanford, U.S. Army Veteran

Terron Sims II, U.S. Army Veteran

Shawn J. VanDiver, U.S. Navy Veteran

“In our great country, gun violence is a disaster that left 33,000 dead last year, and more than 84,000 injured. We need to mount a national response. And that response must include some commonsense steps that keep guns out of the wrong hands, protect the Second Amendment rights of responsible people, and save lives,” said Admiral Thad Allen, United States Coast Guard (Ret.). “I want to thank Captain Kelly and Congresswoman Giffords for their leadership, and my fellow veterans for joining this fight for common sense and safer communities.”

“As a former Deputy Commander of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, I know that our Sailors had to be well versed in the use of firearms. I saw first hand the incredible power of firearms, and I know the precautions we taught to keep people safe.  But I also know the dangers guns pose when they are in the hands of dangerous people,” said Rear Admiral Jamie Barnett, United States Navy (Ret.). “Making our communities safer from gun violence shouldn’t have to be a partisan idea – it’s just a commonsense idea. That’s why so many Americans – including veterans like me – support these policies. We’re standing together and demanding commonsense change because we have a responsibility to leave to our kids and grandkids a country that is safer from gun violence.”

“Each year, approximately 6,000 of our fellow veterans take their own life, and two-thirds of those veterans who choose to end their life do so with a gun. We know that this gun violence crisis has many causes, and therefore, that there is no single solution. But I’m joining this effort because I know that we can do better,” said Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, United States Marine Corps (Ret). “I’m honored to join with Captain Kelly and my fellow veterans to stand on the front lines in this fight to make our communities safer places to live.”

“As a proud veteran of our armed forces, I served to uphold our Constitution and the right of law-abiding Americans to own guns. I also know that with the freedom to own a gun comes the responsibility to help keep them out of the wrong hands,” said Commander Carlos Del Toro, United States Navy (Ret.). “I’m honored to join Captain Kelly and my fellow veterans today for the launch of this new and badly-needed effort to build safer communities.”

ABOUT THE GUN VIOLENCE IN THE UNITED STATES AND OUR VETERANS

Our country is in the clutches of a gun violence crisis that claimed more than 33,000 lives last year and left more than 84,000 Americans injured. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

Since 1969, more Americans have been killed by gun violence than in all U.S. wars combined. [New York Times]

Between 2001 and 2010, 119,246 Americans were murdered with guns, 23 times all of the U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] [Children’s Defense Fund]

Between 2001 and 2011, nearly 70 percent of suicides among male veterans were committed with a firearm. [Veterans Health Administration]

Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide each day. [Department of Veterans Affairs]

Nearly two-thirds of all veteran suicides are completed with guns. [Department of Veterans Affairs]

ARS & the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence Push Legislators to Reduce Gun Trafficking

June 6, 2016 – 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 its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released a new resource today urging state legislators to enact laws that reduce illegal gun trafficking and help keep guns out of dangerous hands.

The new toolkit, “Commonsense Solutions: State Laws to Reduce Gun Trafficking” is being released as states around the country continue to grapple with the lack of a clear federal statute against gun trafficking, in which firearms are diverted from the legal market to the illegal market. These guns are then used in murders and other violent crimes at alarming rates.

The report outlines the key steps state legislators can take to address shortcomings in federal law and help reduce gun trafficking. These steps include:

  1. Enacting stronger laws to prohibit straw purchases, which involve one person buying a gun on behalf of another, with an exception for gifts;

  2. Prohibiting gun trafficking itself, defined to include all gun transfers that a person should know are likely to put guns in the hands of people who are likely to misuse them;

  3. Requiring gun dealers to use responsible business practices to ensure that they do not contribute to gun trafficking; and,

  4. Requiring gun owners to report lost or stolen guns to law enforcement.

Click here to view the full toolkit.

The resource is the latest publication by ARS and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which joined forces in March 2016 to create powerful new force for gun safety legislation, research, education, communications, and advocacy under the leadership of Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Kelly, the leading voices in the movement to keep guns out of the wrong hands and help save lives from gun violence. Previous toolkits outlined steps legislators can take to address the nexus of gun violence and domestic violencereduce gun deaths associated with mental illnessprotect children from unintended shootings, and close loopholes in their background check system for gun sales.

“Illegal gun trafficking fuels gun violence in communities across our country, and in the face of this threat Congress has failed to act decisively to strengthen our laws and combat gun trafficking,” said Americans for Responsible Solutions Founder & 501(c)(4) Director Peter Ambler. “In the face of Congress’ inaction, leaders in the states can and must act to combat the illegal gun trade and make their communities safer. We hope that state legislators around the country seize the opportunity to crack  down on the illegal gun trade, keep guns away from dangerous people, and protect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding people.”

“The research has shown again and again that the guns used in deadly shootings and other crimes are often trafficked from states with weak gun laws to states with stronger laws. State legislators have a responsibility to stand up to the gun lobby and pass laws designed to stem the flow of illegal guns into the hands of dangerous individuals,” said Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “The American public desperately needs and deserves smart gun laws that prevent the widespread gun trafficking responsible for so many tragedies in our nation. This toolkitserves as a blueprint for lawmakers to enact legislation that protects our families and communities from this dangerous and pervasive problem.”

About Americans for Responsible Solutions

Founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS) is committed to advancing commonsense change that makes communities safer from gun violence and encouraging elected officials to advance responsible firearms policies. Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC is committed to helping elect candidates from both parties who support commonsense laws that make communities safer from gun violence. Learn more at responsiblesolutions.org and at @Resp_Solutions.

About the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Founded in the wake of the July 1, 1993, assault weapon massacre at 101 California Street in San Francisco that left eight dead and six wounded, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is now the premier resource for legal expertise and information regarding state and federal firearms laws. Made up of the foremost gun law attorneys in the nation, the Law Center tracks and analyzes firearms legislation in all 50 states, files amicus briefs in critical Second Amendment cases across the country, and works with lawmakers and advocates to craft and promote legislation that will reduce gun violence and save lives. We regularly partner with other nonprofit organizations dedicated to combating the epidemic of gun violence in our country, and we invite you to explore our website, smartgunlaws.org, and to follow us on Twitter @smartgunlaws to learn more about our work and deepen your knowledge about gun laws in America.

Vogue: Gun Violence Is a Full-Blown National Crisis

 

Gun Violence Is a Full-Blown National Crisis
By Gabrielle Giffords
June 2, 2016

On a bright winter morning more than five years ago, I was nearly murdered with a gun.

At a meeting with my constituents in Tucson, a troubled young man opened fire, injuring 12 others and killing six.

I was shot in the head from three feet away. The bullet tore through the left side of my brain, an injury that is almost always fatal. But somehow I survived.

Today, speaking is still hard for me. My eyesight isn’t very good, and despite hours and hours of physical therapy, my right arm and right leg remain mostly paralyzed. And I had to resign from a job I so loved: representing Southern Arizona in Congress.

But I don’t spent a lot of time focusing on what I can no longer do. Instead, I’ve moved ahead and chased big goals. I’ve learned speeches and delivered them in front of crowds and cameras. I went skydiving. I’m relearning Spanish. For the first time in years, I’ve taken my French horn out of its case. And this November, I rode 40 miles in Tucson’s annual charity bike ride, El Tour de Tucson. I achieved my goal.

Along with another opportunity at life, as I continued in my recovery I was also given a second chance at service.

At first, the path was unclear. My husband Mark – a Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut –  and I asked each other, how can we make a difference? How can we still serve? How can we use our voice?

The murder of twenty beautiful children in their classrooms at Sandy Hook School gave us our answer. It shocked us into action.

So today, together with Mark, I am using my voice to make our great country safer from the kind of gun violence that took the lives of those around me and changed many others’, and mine, forever.

Gun violence is a full-blown national crisis – one that, on an average day, claims 91 American lives – including seven children and teens. Our gun murder rate is 25 times higher than other countries like ours. And women are 11 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in our peer countries.

As a country, that is not how we want to stand out.

One reason for this gun violence crisis? We have bad laws that make it too easy for dangerous people – including felons, domestic abusers, and stalkers – to get their hands on guns. In most states, a dangerous person like a vicious domestic abuser with a restraining order has the option of buying a gun without a background check.

At every turn, the gun lobby and the politicians it backs have fought to protect these loopholes.

As I knew when I took on this fight, inaction in Congress and in statehouses around our country is an evil. The status quo is an enemy.

But today, more than five years after I was nearly dispatched to my death by my would-be assassin, we are making progress in the fight for safer communities.

Outside of the halls of Congress and some statehouses, people aren’t falling back on the same tired excuses. They’re being bold and courageous. They’re doing what it takes to make us safer.

They know we can’t prevent every gun tragedy, and that’s no excuse for failing to try to prevent some of them.

Americans continue to call for commonsense change. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook, six states have closed the loopholes in their background check laws. With the support of our organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, leaders from both sides of the aisle in states around our country have taken important steps to protect domestic violence survivors and their families by keeping guns out of abusers’ hands.

And in Hillary Clinton we have a candidate for the White House who has put standing up to the gun lobby and reducing gun violence in our communities at the center of her campaign.

Still, sometimes it is tempting to let our optimism wane.

Because I know that this week, another 637 Americans will die from gun violence, and another 1,450 will be injured. And Congress will do exactly what its members have done every week since the tragedy at Sandy Hook School: nothing at all.

That acceptance of the shameful status quo is something we’ve grown to expect from a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip.

And it’s why we need to work to create a different Congress and different state legislatures, where champions for laws that reduce gun violence are the majority.

That starts at the ballot box. And it starts with us.

So today on Gun Violence Awareness Day, let’s wear orange — together. Let’s stand together and honor the lives of innocent Americans taken from gun violence through action. Let’s make sure that all of us – and all of our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors – demand that the people who are running to be our voice at every level of elected office lay out their plan for addressing our gun violence crisis. And let’s make where they stand on reducing gun violence a decisive factor in whether they get our vote or not.

If we do that together, then we can make sure every candidate around our great country knows that while today is National Gun Violence Awareness Day, this November will be the Gun Violence Awareness Election.

And now it’s up to those candidates to decide whether they’ll stand on the side of the gun lobby, or the side of common sense, responsibility, and the American people.