WASHINGTON -- With the National Rifle Association set to host its first conference since the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and 19 others in Tucson, gun control advocates are getting confrontational.
The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence's Educational Fund is placing full-page ads in Pittsburgh's two major papers -- the Post Gazette and the Times Review -- as a sober greeting for the estimated 70,000 gun lobby members expected to descend on the steel city. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) will be a featured speaker at the NRA's 140th annual meeting.
The ads are framed with a picture of a Tucson survivor on top and additional pictures of shooting victims from Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Pittsburgh. Below the images is a letter from victims' relatives, asking for support for a more comprehensive background check system for gun licenses. Some 105 family members of shooting victims signed the letter.
“We are not politicians. And we are not interested in a debate on the Second Amendment. In fact, some of us are longtime gun owners ourselves,” the ad reads. “We are the families of Americans who were murdered or injured by killers who should not have had guns. And we hope you’ll talk to us during your annual meeting in Pittsburgh.”
There are other protests planned for the NRA’s weekend gathering. Patricia Maisch, the Arizona woman who wrestled away alleged shooter Jared Loughner's ammunition clip during the Jan. 8 Tuscon shooting, will be demonstrating outside the convention hall. A billboard truck, meanwhile, will be driving around the convention inviting NRA executive director and CEO Wayne LaPierre to discuss shoring up legal loopholes.
An email seeking comment from the NRA was not immediately returned.
The Giffords shooting hasn’t resulted in a single change of policy. Gun control advocates have waited months since Tucson for a pubic forum in which they could petition or demonstrate against the gun lobby. Now, with the congresswoman set to attend her husband's space shuttle launch at Cape Canaveral on Friday, and with the NRA meeting this weekend, the issue has risen once again. Operatives working on gun control policy hope the two events will help influence the outcome of ongoing legislative talks with Congress and the Obama administration.