* Wounded Arizona ex-lawmaker says "enough"
* Group seeks "common-sense" solutions to curb violence
* Giffords initiative aims to raise funds, challenge NRA
By Susan Heavey
WASHINGTON, Jan 8 Former U.S. Representative
Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona is launching a group aimed at
curbing gun violence, challenging the political clout of the
well-funded gun lobby two years after she was shot in the head
while meeting with constituents.
Giffords, herself a gun owner, is starting the effort called
Americans for Responsible Solutions with her husband, former
U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly.
"Enough," the former congresswoman told ABC television in an
interview aired on Tuesday, calling for common-sense measures to
reduce violence after a string of recent mass shootings.
Giffords was shot and severely wounded when gunman Jared
Loughner opened fire outside a Tucson supermarket where she was
meeting with constituents on Jan. 8, 2011. Six people were
killed and 13 wounded in that attack.
Since then, public debate over gun control laws has been
fueled by a July rampage at the premiere of a Batman movie in
Aurora, Colorado, that killed 12 people and wounded 58 others,
and the massacre of 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December.
The new initiative will push for background checks for
private gun sales and look at ways to better address mental
illness, among other efforts, Kelly told ABC.
Giffords' group aims to take on the National Rifle
Association, which in 2011 spent over 11 times more on lobbying
than all gun control lobbyists combined.
The new group has set up a political action committee to
raise funds "to balance the influence of the gun lobby," it said
on its website ().
"Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions,
advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun
violence groups. No longer," Giffords wrote in an opinion piece
published on Tuesday in USA Today.
"Winning even the most common-sense reforms will require a
fight ... Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent
mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach
and resources," she added.
It was not immediately clear how Giffords' initiative would
work with other gun control groups, including Mayors Against
Illegal Guns and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Brady Campaign President Dan Gross said its supporters
"stood shoulder to shoulder" with Giffords, but a spokeswoman
could not immediately say how the groups might collaborate.
U.S. President Barack Obama pledged after the Connecticut
shooting to take swift action to reduce gun violence and has
created a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden that is due
to report later this month on possible measures.
The task force is examining legislation that would ban
assault rifles, but is also looking at the role of violent
movies and videogames in mass shootings and whether there is
adequate access to mental health services.
Biden and his task force are scheduled to meet this week
with victims of gun violence, gun safety groups, hunting groups
and gun owners, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
The NRA's top lobbyist, James J. Baker, will also attend.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will propose a stricter
assault weapons ban on Wednesday in his State of the State
address, The New York Times reported, citing unnamed people
briefed on the matter. New York is one of seven states that has
some kind of ban on assault weapons, but Cuomo wants to tighten
its loopholes, the Times said.
Giffords' new effort comes just days after she visited
Newtown to meet with families of the victims of last month's
Sandy Hook school massacre.
She also recently met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg,
who heads his own initiative, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, that
is pushing for what he calls "reasonable" gun controls.
These include background checks for gun owners, and curbs on
sales of powerful semi-automatic rifles and extended capacity
magazines of the type used in the mass shootings in Newtown and
"The reality is that most Americans think it's crazy to have
assault weapons and high-capacity magazines," Bloomberg said on
MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
As a member of Congress, Giffords was a supporter of gun
ownership rights and said she owned a Glock 9-mm handgun. Her
shift to vocal gun control advocate is reminiscent of two other
American politicians who took on the powerful gun lobby after
their lives were shattered by shootings.
The Brady law establishing a criminal background check for
handgun sales is named after Jim Brady, a former press secretary
for Republican President Ronald Reagan who was seriously wounded
in an assassination attempt on Reagan that also wounded the
president in 1981.
New York Democratic Representative Carolyn McCarthy, who has
fought a lonely battle in Congress for gun control for 15 years,
ran for Congress after her husband, Dennis, was killed and son
Kevin seriously wounded when a gunman opened fire on Long Island
Railroad train riders in 1993, killing six.
The recent mass shootings and the threat of tighter gun
restrictions has spurred intense reaction on both sides.
Consumer demand for guns appears to have soared in recent
weeks, according to FBI data.
Gun control supporters worry that other looming issues, such
as the battle on Capitol Hill over the government debt ceiling,
could hamper efforts in Congress.
Bloomberg's group launched its own new ad on Tuesday with
the mother of Christina-Taylor Green, a child who was killed in
the Arizona shooting in which Giffords was wounded.
"Twenty heartbroken families lost a child in the Sandy Hook
school shooting. I know how much it hurts," Roxanna Green said
in the ad.
"I have one question for our political leaders: when will
you find the courage to stand up to the gun lobby?"