Rep. Ron Barber, a former aide to Rep. Gabby Giffords who won a special election to acquire her seat this past November, told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that being given a second chance at life, he’s going to focus on preventing further gun tragedies . Barber was critically wounded alongside Giffords two years ago during a shooting at Congressional event at a Tucson, Ariz. supermarket.
“I’ve been given a second opportunity in life to do something about a tragedy that none of us ever want to see happen again,” Barber said on Andrea Mitchell Reports. “And now, as a member of Congress, I’m determined that we’re going to take appropriate action.”
Barber emphasized his support for the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms, but stressed the need for stronger background checks to close the loop holes in gun control laws.
He reflected on the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut and said, “The kind of fire power that killed 20 little ones in Connecticut—we have to do something about that.”
He told Mitchell that he’s placing a large part of his focus on the availability of large capacity magazines, saying the kind of “high power fire weaponry,” used in the Tucson shootings shouldn’t be made easily available.
The Arizona representative also talked about the correlation between mental illnesses and gun violence.
After recovering from the Tucson shooting, Barber created the Mental Health Task Force, which provides advice on mental health issues and their impact on gun violence. The task force will explore what the government can do about mental health services, early detection/identification of people with mental illnesses, and the kinds of laws which can be passed to aid effort. To aid the task force, Barber and his family also started the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding.
“We’ve focused over the last two years on addressing bullying in schools, which we know has a link to mental health concerns and violence,” Barber said. “We’re working on the mental health arena.”