Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, husband Mark Kelly launch gun control lobbying effort

By Brian Skoloff

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 8 2013 2:14 p.m. MST

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, holds hands with her husband, Mark Kelly, while exiting Town Hall at Fairfield Hills Campus in Newtown, Conn. after meeting with Newtown officials in this Jan. 4, 2013 file photo. Giffords also met with families of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre that left 26 people dead. Tuesday Jan. 8, 2013 is the second anniversary of the shooting of Giffords. Tucson will mark the anniversary by ringing bells across the city at the moment that Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a supermarket where Giffords was meeting with constituents.

Jason Rearick, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Enlarge photo»

TUCSON, Ariz. — Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband launched a political action committee aimed at curbing gun violence on Tuesday as her Arizona hometown paused to mark the second anniversary of a deadly shooting rampage that left her with severe injuries.

Tucson residents rang bells at 10:11 a.m. — the moment a mentally ill gunman opened fire on Giffords as she met with constituents in 2011, killing six people and leaving 12 others injured. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild rang a bell at a fire station 19 times — one for each victim.

At the same time, two politicians on opposite ends of the gun debate held dueling weapons buy-backs outside a police station. Such events have been held around the country since the shooting at a Connecticut school that revived the gun control debate.

City Councilman Steve Kozachik asked people to turn in their guns for a $50 gift certificate from Safeway — the grocery store chain that owned the supermarket that was the site of the shooting. He wants to get guns out of people's home and bring pressure on politicians to change gun laws.

About 200 firearms, many of them old, some inoperable, were turned in during the event, Tucson police said. They were set to be destroyed later in the day. Kozachik said he handed out about $10,000 worth of grocery gift certificates.

"We inherited the guns, and we had no use for them," said Jason Munday, who traded in two old rifles. "Figured we'd just get them out of the house."

In response to the event, a Republican outgoing state senator organized a gathering outside the same station where about a dozen people offered cash for guns. Several people waved signs and held up money to approaching drivers to announce that they would buy their weapons.

Giffords also took a prominent role in the gun debate on the anniversary. She and husband Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, wrote in an op-ed published in USA Today that their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative would help raise money to support greater gun control efforts.

"Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources," the couple wrote in the column. They said that it will "raise funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby."

The move was hinted at in Kelly's recent comments that he and Giffords want to become a prominent voice for gun control efforts.

The couple last week visited Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire in an elementary school, killing 20 children and six adults in December. They also met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who has spent some of his fortune in recent years on gun control efforts.

The couple was expected to discuss the initiative in an interview airing Tuesday on ABC News.

The network offered a preview of the interview Monday and during "Good Morning America" on Tuesday. Kelly described a meeting with a father of a Connecticut victim in which he "just about lost it" after the parent showed him a picture of his child.

When asked by Diane Sawyer about when such violence happens to school children, Giffords responded: "Enough."

In the op-ed piece, Kelly and Giffords discussed what they deem lawmakers' inaction on curbing gun violence.

"In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary — nothing at all," Giffords and Kelly wrote in the op-ed.

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