PHOENIX (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband launched an initiative Tuesday to curb gun violence on the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting that killed six people and left her critically injured.
Giffords and her astronaut husband Mark Kelly wrote in an USA Today article Tuesday 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," they wrote. Last week they visited Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were slain last month in one of the U.S.'s deadliest school shootings. They also met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a strong gun control advocate.
They plan to discuss the initiative later Tuesday on ABC News. In a preview of the interview, 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.
"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.
They hope to start a national conversation about gun violence and raise funds for political activity, so "legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby." "The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve fellow citizens and leaders who have the will to prevent gun violence in the future," they wrote.
Tucson will mark the anniversary by ringing bells across the city Tuesday at the moment that Jared Lee Loughner opened fire at a supermarket where Giffords was meeting with constituents. In Washington, President Barack Obama's administration was calling gun owner groups, victims' organizations and representatives from the video-game industry to the White House this week for talks on potential policy proposals for curbing gun violence.
Obama has ordered a task force to send him proposals by the end of January. The group, led by Vice President Joe Biden, was formed in response to last month's horrific massacre at Newtown. Biden will meet Wednesday with gun violence victims' groups and gun safety organizations, a White House official said. On Thursday, he will hold talks with gun ownership groups, as well as advocates for sportsmen. The vice president also plans to meet this week with representatives from the entertainment and video-game industries. The official was not authorized to discuss the meetings before they were publicly announced and thus spoke on condition of anonymity.
Obama has called the Dec. 14 shooting in Newtown the worst moment of his presidency. It catapulted gun control to the top of his priority list and also led some pro-gun lawmakers on Capitol Hill to express a willingness to consider new measures.
But less than a month after the school shooting, gun control already has taken a backseat in Washington to economic issues. The president and lawmakers were consumed at year's end by efforts to avert the combination of spending cuts and tax hikes known as the "fiscal cliff." And Congress will face another set of equally pressing economic deadlines in March.
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, said the next round of fiscal deadlines will occupy the attention of Congress and push off the consideration of gun legislation for at least three months.
"There will be plenty of time to take a look at their recommendations once they come forward," McConnell said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." Obama aides say the president still plans to act quickly on Biden's proposals. They worry that as the shock of the Newtown shooting fades, so, too, will the prospects that pro-gun lawmakers will work with the White House to tighten restrictions.
"I believe most Americans would disagree with the idea that in the wake of what happened in Newtown, Conn., that we should put off any action on the issue of gun violence," White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. "It's certainly not a sentiment the president supports."
Biden's recommendations are likely to include proposals for legislation, as well as executive action Obama can sign into law without lawmakers' approval. The president already has called on Congress to reinstate a ban on military-style assault weapons, close loopholes that allow gun buyers to skirt background checks and restrict high-capacity magazines. While the president may consider additional gun control measures, he also has ordered his administration to examine ways to improve mental health coverage and consider cultural issues like violence in video games and movies.
Julie Pace reported from Washington.
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