There is no one more painfully equipped to comprehend the consequences of a ‘do nothing” Congress when it comes to gun control than former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords. In the two years since she was gunned down in a parking lot in Tucson, AZ, shot by a deranged gunman with a 30-round magazine he was able to empty into eighteen people, six of whom died, in a matter of just 40 seconds, she has had to give up her position in Congress in service to the demands and limitations of her continuing recovery.
But while no longer an official representative for her state, she and husband, Mark Kelly, have become very active in the ongoing gun control issue facing our nation. They announced today, Tuesday, January 8, 2013–two years to the day since her shooting–that they are launching Americans For Responsible Solutions, an initiative aimed at raising money in support of better, more efficient and effective gun control measures.
After visiting Newtown, CT, last week, meeting with some of the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, both Giffords and Kelly were expressing thoughts and perspective based on their shared, and horrific, experience with gun violence. They met with ABC News after their visit and spoke with Diane Sawyer about the experience. From The Huffington Post:
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.” [Emphasis added.]
That word, “enough,” is the guiding principle behind the Giffords/Kelly action committee. They expressed their mission statement, and the thinking behind their moving forward, in an Op-Ed piece titled, Fighting Gun Violence, published today in USA Today. One of the most salient points is their deep frustration with the rampant inaction they see on the part of reluctant lawmakers:
“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.
“This country is known for using its determination and ingenuity to solve problems, big and small. Wise policy has conquered disease, protected us from dangerous products and substances, and made transportation safer. But when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we’re not even trying – and for the worst of reasons.”
As a writer who has written on the topic of guns quite a bit, I have noted–in the bombardment of response from those angered by anyone who speaks out for gun control–that the sense of paranoia and fear (and the conviction that the government or criminals or…anyone is coming to harm them), is a popular and very vehement theme. As one respondent e-mailed me in response to my piece Marine To Sen. Feinstein – ‘Some Woman’ Will Not Limit My Assault Weapons:
“Its naive liberals like you who take for granted the iron curtain of safety you enjoy in suburban America every day, until the shit ever hits the fan you’ll be best friends with those who were smart enough to arm themselves with assault rifles. Especially Marines. [sic]”
That mentality, that fear-based sense (delusion?) of self-protectionism, is addressed in the Giffords/Kelly op-ed; that’s something I was glad to see, as I don’t believe that paranoia is acknowledged or dealt with enough in this debate. The argument that the government – or someone – is out to “get all our guns” is another theme that is too often wielded as a deflection from meaningful conversation. Here was their response to that exact kind of thinking:
Forget the boogeyman of big, bad government coming to dispossess you of your firearms. As a Western woman and as a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised our Second Amendment rights, we don’t want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home. What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence.
We saw from the NRA leadership’s defiant and unsympathetic response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre that winning even the most common-sense reforms will require a fight. But whether it has been in campaigns or in Congress, in combat or in space, fighting for what we believe in has always been what we do.
Whether or not Americans for a Responsible Solution–a name which aptly describes a great many in this discussion–will be able to do what others have not (such as moving the conversation forward into tangible action) remains to be seen. Given the perspective and the very real life experience of the two people heading it, however, I would place bets that they’ll stir some very positive forward motion. In hard, cold terms, that comes down to money. As they acknowledge:
Until now, the gun lobby’s political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer. With Americans for Responsible Solutions engaging millions of people about ways to reduce gun violence and funding political activity nationwide, legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby. Other efforts such as improving mental health care and opposing illegal guns are essential, but as gun owners and survivors of gun violence, we have a unique message for Americans. […]
Americans for Responsible Solutions, which we are launching today, will invite people from around the country to join a national conversation about gun violence prevention, will raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby, and will line up squarely behind leaders who will stand up for what’s right.
If you are interested in getting involved, donating money, or just learning more about their initiative, click the link here. Give time, money, your attention, your open mind. Pass it around, link it, discuss it, argue for it…but let’s get moving and really get something done, because–as Giffords and Kelly, and so many others, painfully exemplify–gun violence is real, random and capable of affecting anyone, anywhere.