Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), nearly killed by a deranged assassin in 2011, was back on Capitol Hill this week, encouraging lawmakers to approve expanded background checks. And while opposition from the National Rifle Association comes as no surprise, the far-right group raised eyebrows with a rhetorical shot at Giffords directly.
Hitting a new low in its bullying barrage against gun laws, the National Rifle Association on Thursday targeted Gabrielle Giffords in an attack mocking her 2011 shooting.“Gabby Giffords: Everyone Should Have to Pass Background Check My Attacker Passed,” the NRA tweeted from its main account.The tweet – which one lawmaker called “pathetic” – aimed to argue that background checks don’t reduce gun violence and linked to an article on the right-wing Breitbart website.
The Breitbart article that the NRA promoted noted, accurately, that the gunman responsible for the 2011 massacre in Tucson passed a background check, as did several other notorious killers. As best as I can tell, the Breitbart article is accurate.
That said, both the article and the NRA seem to be badly missing the point.
As Alec MacGillis explained very well, Giffords “is not devoting herself to the cause of expanding background checks because that measure would have stopped [Jared] Loughner, but because that measure is the one that police and criminal justice experts believe would have the biggest impact on reducing gun violence overall.”
Exactly. The NRA’s argument seems to be that Giffords’ argument must be rejected because expanded background checks wouldn’t have stopped her would-be assassin. But Giffords isn’t talking about her shooting; she’s talking about taking sensible, responsible steps to prevent future mass murders.
MacGillis added, “The same was true of the families of the victims in the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre: Universal background checks would not have stopped Adam Lanza, who got his guns from his mother, but the families wanted to push for whatever reform would limit shooting deaths, period. Making it harder for people with criminal records, histories of domestic violence, and adjudications for mental illness to obtain guns is one of the best measures at our disposal to do so. In other words, Giffords and others whose lives have been upended by gun violence are thinking about others, not themselves – they are exhibiting a form of political empathy.”
That this point is lost on the NRA and Breitbart is itself instructive.
As for the bigger picture, let’s not overlook how unnecessary the NRA’s taunts are – the odds of a Republican Congress limiting firearm access are zero. Giffords is fighting the good fight, but at least for the next two years, it is simply not possible to even imagine lawmakers approving new gun-safety measures.
In other words, the NRA has already won another round. It’s taking a cheap shot at a foe whom they’ve already defeated.
Worse, the NRA is going after one of the most sympathetic figures in American public life, for reasons that only seem to make sense to the NRA.