WASHINGTON - Seeking to counter the influence of the pro-gun lobby, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, are launching a campaign to change the nation's gun policies.
The initiative, called Americans for Responsible Solutions, was announced Tuesday on the second anniversary of the Tucson mass shooting that killed six people and injured 13, including Giffords, who was severely wounded.
"Forget the boogeyman of big, bad government coming to dispossess you of your firearms. As a Western woman and a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised our Second Amendment rights, we don't want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home," Giffords and Kelly wrote in an op-ed in USA Today.
"What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence," the Tucson couple wrote.
The campaign will aim to neutralize the National Rifle Association's cash advantage in promoting gun rights. The NRA, with more than 4 million members and an annual budget of more than $200 million, spent at least $24 million in the 2012 election cycle. And when it comes to direct lobbying of Congress, the NRA spent $4.4 million through July 1, compared with the Brady Campaign's $60,000 spent to advocate gun control, The Associated Press reports.
"Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups," Giffords and Kelly wrote in USA Today. "No longer. With Americans for Responsible Solutions engaging millions of people about ways to reduce gun violence and funding political activity nationwide, legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby."
On the group's website, Giffords and Kelly lament that Congress made no significant changes to federal gun policy in the two years since the Tucson shootings. They urge Congress to respond more vigorously to the latest mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 26, including 20 children, were killed at an elementary school last month. Giffords has visited Newtown to meet with victims' families.