Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords speaks Thursday at the launch of an Arizona coalition to lobby for new restrictions on guns. With her is husband Mark Kelly.

Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer

PHOENIX — Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and husband Mark Kelly have a message for Arizona lawmakers: Enact reasonable gun restrictions or we'll help elect people who will.

And if necessary, Kelly, co-founder of Americans for Responsible Solutions with Giffords, said the group will take their case directly to voters.

At a press conference today to launch the Arizona Coalition for Common Sense, Kelly acknowledged the political hurdles that remain.

"Arizona is different,'' he said, with a long history of — and relationship with — firearms. "Arizona could be a tricky state when you consider this.''

Kelly said the first line of attack is to try to change policy. He said that involves convincing lawmakers that a majority of Arizonans want to close what some call the gun show "loophole'' that exempts people who buy firearms from another individual from having to go through the same background check as they would if purchasing a firearm from a licensed dealer.

But he said Americans for Responsible Solutions is involved in more than just policy, saying it has an annual budget approaching $15 million.

"And we spend a lot of that money around election time of November of even years,'' Kelly said.

"When we can't get a Legislature to pass a bill that not only do we feel makes sense but that the citizens of that state overwhelmingly support, we will work really hard to elect people to the Legislature that will support the bill,'' he continued. "And we've done that over and over again.''

He also has something beyond money: Giffords. She survived a 2011 assassination attempt at a Tucson event with constituents, an incident that killed six others.