As the nation marks the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting that killed six people, the target of the shooting, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has launched a nationwide initiative aimed at furthering the conversation on gun violence–and, she hopes, lessening the NRA’s hold on lawmakers. Since the mass shooting in Arizona, there have been 11 mass shootings, including the recent massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
The NRA will head to the White House Thursday to meet with victims’ groups and gun-safety advocates, along with a working taskforce led by Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama created the Biden taskforce in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting that took the lives of 26 students and educators.
Although Biden’s group is not expected to report its findings until the end of the month, the administration could unveil those measures as early as next week. “The president has already urged Congress when it comes back to work to take up initiatives—legislation to ban assault weapons, to ban high-capacity magazines, and to improve our background checks system because it does have loopholes,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday.
Expected to face opposition from the NRA and the lobbying group’s supporters in Congress, Democrats think the report will suggest making changes to federal mental-health programs and gun-tracking databases. Interest group leaders who have met with Biden in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting have said that Biden’s group has discussed ways around congressional approval in the form of executive action.
Following President Obama’s strong endorsement of the proposals a week after the elementary school shooting, Democrats are attempting to reinstate the assault weapons ban and to develop strategies around the NRA and its influence on Washington lawmakers. Gun-control advocates are growing tired of the legislative process that muddles and stalls any approach to curbing gun violence in the U.S.
Since the Newtown shooting, 588 people have been killed by guns. Annually, more than 30,000 Americans die from guns every year. An “Armed Teacher Training Program,” launched by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation, has started in 15 states and has attracted more than 600 applications. The program will train teachers how to use the same firearms as law enforcement officers. The NRA also plans to host an elected-officials-only class for a “range tutorial on the purpose and practical use of semi-automatic firearms and the differences between semi-automatic and automatic function.”
The NRA and gun-rights advocates are rejecting calls for gun legislation, and proposing armed police officers in every school in America. A conservative coalition has also planned Jan. 19th as “Gun Appreciation Day,” just two days before President Obama’s inauguration.
Last month, the NRA’s leader said that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” An ex-Marine endorsed Wayne LaPierre’s sentiment in an open letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, who co-wrote the 1994 assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and who plans to introduce legislation that would ban high-capacity magazines. “I own the guns I own because I acknowledge mankind’s shortcomings instead of pretending like they don’t exist. There are evil men in this world and there just may be a time when I need to do the unthinkable to protect me or my family,” Marine Joshua Boston wrote.
Gabby Giffords has stepped into the gun violence debate, launching a political action committee with her husband, Mark Kelly, called Americans for Responsible Solutions. Giffords and Kelly wrote an op-ed in USA Today asking elected officials to stand up to gun lobbyists.
Giffords and Kelly write, “We can’t be naive about what it will take to achieve the most common-sense solutions. We can’t just hope that the last shooting tragedy will prevent the next. Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources. We have experienced too much death and hurt to remain idle. Our response to the Newtown massacre must consist of more than regret, sorrow and condolence. 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.”