Thursday, February 22, 2018

Gabrielle Giffords, husband launch gun control lobbying effort

WASHINGTON — As the White House prepares to unveil recommendations this month to combat gun violence, advocates of reform are working to generate public pressure for Congress to approve gun-control laws.

On Tuesday, the second anniversary of a Tucson shooting that left six dead and 13 injured, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., several groups launched fresh offensives on the airwaves and in print. The highest-profile effort came from Giffords who, along with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, introduced a campaign to counter the influence of the gun-rights lobby.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a nonprofit founded by Michael Bloomberg, New York's mayor, and Thomas Menino, Boston's mayor, also released a television ad Tuesday featuring Roxanna Green, whose 9-year-old daughter was among those killed in Tucson.

The ad will run on cable in Washington, D.C., as well as in markets where there have been mass shootings.

The concerted push underscores how the most difficult challenge for advocates is not crafting legislation, but altering the political calculus that for years has favored the National Rifle Association and its savvy political operation. The question: how to amass resources and sustain momentum after the horrors of the most recent mass shooting recede from public consciousness.

"One of the problems is it has been a very loose coalition," said Mike Pohle, whose son Mike Pohle Jr. was killed in the 2005 Virginia Tech shootings. "But with what Rep. Giffords announced today and the commitment of Mayor Bloomberg and others, we are coming. We are going to work to be as powerful, if not more powerful, than the NRA because that's the only way you're going to beat them."

In the wake of last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the NRA pledged to resist efforts to overhaul gun laws, such as a ban on assault weapons or high-capacity magazines. The group, which did not respond to requests for comment, will meet with Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Giffords and her husband discussed their effort in an op-ed published in USA Today and in an interview on ABC News. The couple wrote in the op-ed that their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative would help take on the powerful gun lobby.

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