MIAMI — In one of her first Miami appearances since launching a run for the Senate, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, of Orlando, received the endorsement of Giffords PAC, the political branch of the anti-gun violence nonprofit founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona.
During a news conference at Bayfront Park on Monday morning, Demings touted her record, including voting in favor of two pieces of legislation passed this year that would enhance background checks for gun buyers, and her experience as Orlando’s former top cop as evidence that she’d push for gun legislation as a senator.
The Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 that passed the U.S. House of Representatives has not proceeded to the Senate, and significant talks on gun reform have since broken down between Republicans and Democrats.
Demings — who was joined by former Reps. Giffords and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, and Stacey Wesch, the mother of a Parkland school shooting survivor — also went directly after her GOP rival, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, for receiving political contributions from the National Rifle Association.
“I know there are some, like the person that I’m running against, who want to make this a political issue. As a law enforcement officer, I did not make my decisions about keeping my community safe based on politics. I did what I could, I used my influence as a law enforcement officer and a chief of police to keep people safe,” said Demings. “My opponent has had many opportunities but chose to put the interests of the NRA, the gun lobby, above the interests of Floridians. That’s just a fact.”
In a statement, Rubio’s reelection campaign’s communications director, Elizabeth Gregory, called the bills that Demings voted for “extreme” and said they would infringe on gun owners’ rights.
“It’s no surprise that Val Demings is eager to tout her support of trampling all over Floridians’ Second Amendment rights,” said Gregory. “Demings has voted for every extreme gun control bill Nancy Pelosi has brought to the House floor, and she’d do the same in the Senate.”
At Bayfront Park, the anti-gun violence advocacy group also unveiled an installation of thousands of vases with white flowers, a temporary memorial dedicated to the approximately 3,000 victims of gun violence in Florida last year.
Mucarsel-Powell, senior adviser for the nonprofit, said the organization was supporting Demings because Florida needs more advocates in government who support gun reform.
Meanwhile, Giffords, who was wounded in the head during a mass shooting at an event with constituents in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011, said it was important for more people to become advocates against gun violence.
“My recovery is a daily fight, but fighting makes me stronger. Words once came easily. Today I struggle with speech, but I have not lost my voice. America needs all of us to speak out, even if you have to fight to find the words,” said Giffords.