SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York (Reuters) - Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was in New York on Sunday to tour her first gun show since being shot in the head to review new measures that require background checks for buyers.
Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, who describe themselves as supporters of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms, are lobbying to have similar steps adopted at gun shows around the United States.
The procedures, a voluntary deal between gunshow operators and New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, call for all gun buyers be cleared via the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Such a move closes the so-called “gun show” loophole, which allowed show buyers to avoid the background checks they are required to go have when buying firearms at a retail outlet.
“It’s great to be able to see people sell the firearms they have collected,” Kelly said, noting that he and Giffords still have firearms in their home. “It’s great for Gabby and I to see a system that works.”
Giffords and 18 others, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl, were shot in January 2011 by Jared Lee Loughner during a constituents’ meeting held in a supermarket parking lot. The judge and the child were among six people who died in the incident. Loughner pleaded guilty last November and was sentenced to life without parole.
“Stopping gun violence takes courage. The courage to do what’s right. The courage of new ideas,” said Giffords, a Democrat who resigned from office a year after the attack to focus on her recovery.
“Now is the time to come together, be responsible ... Be bold, be courageous, the nation is counting on you,” she said, speaking in a halting fashion.
David Petronis, president of the New Eastcoast Arms Collectors Associates, which organized the show, said he has been performing background checks at his shows for 30 years.
He was less supportive of New York’s SAFE Act, which was passed early this year following the mass shooting in nearby Newtown, Connecticut. It bans assault weapons and limits the size of ammunition magazines.
“I believe that (what) the attorney general has done with the gun shows is completely different than what the SAFE Act did to New York State itself,” Petronis said. “I take more issue with the SAFE Act than what we agreed to with Schneiderman.”
Members of a Second Amendment advocacy group called NY2A, who picketed outside the event, said they were unimpressed by the background check deal.
“What happened to is a tragedy,” said Jake Palmateer, an organizer with the group. “However, we feel they are using the emotions connected with that tragic event to pursue a political agenda that damages the civil rights of all Americans.”
Editing by Scott Malone and Leslie Gevirtz