POLITICS
01/08/2013 11:56 am ET Updated Jan 08, 2013

Gabrielle Giffords' Gun Control Push Sparks Controversy In Newtown

On the two-year anniversary of the shooting in Tuscon, Ariz., that left her critically injured and six of her constituents dead, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, have launched a national group aimed at countering the influence of the gun lobby.

"Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups," Giffords and Kelly wrote in an op-ed piece for 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 new website, supporters can read the couple's Op-Ed, contribute money, and put their names on a mailing list. The announcement comes a week after the couple visited Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults in December. "Our response to the Newtown massacre must consist of more than regret, sorrow and condolence," the couple wrote.

On Tuesday night, Giffords and Kelly are scheduled to be interviewed by ABC's Diane Sawyer.

Joel T. Faxon, a lawyer and longtime hunter who serves as the head of the local police commission in Newtown, said he applauded the couple's efforts. "It’s about time that a group with principled leaders will advocate for reasonable gun regulation," he told HuffPost. "The fear-mongering of the gun groups is ridiculous."

But not everyone in Newtown has welcomed the couple. Connecticut State Rep. DebraLee Hovey (R) responded to her former colleague's visit last week with a confrontational Facebook message: “Stay out of my towns!!” Hovey dismissed the visit as "political."

However, Hovey followed up with an apology on Monday. “The remarks I made regarding Congresswoman Gifford’s visit were insensitive and if I offended anyone I truly apologize,” she said in a statement.

If Giffords' initiative succeeds in helping to bring about gun-control legislation, it will be the first time that Congress has acted on the issue since the Tuscon shooting. And although such legislation is likely to include a ban on assault weapons, it may go even further. Over the weekend, the Washington Post reported that the new White House working group on gun violence led by Vice President Joe Biden is “seriously considering measures backed by key law enforcement leaders that would require universal background checks for firearm buyers, track the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthen mental health checks, and stiffen penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors.”

On Tuesday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a gun-control advocate, told reporters that he believed Biden's recommendations would help curtail gun violence.

“I think all of us know that Joe Biden is not a shrinking violet, particularly when it comes to crime and the gun problem in this country and the number of murders,” Bloomberg said. “I think what we’ve got to do first is try to do everything we can to help Joe Biden.”

In Connecticut, Gov. Dan Malloy (D) has assembled a gun violence task force of his own, setting an interim deadline of March 15 for the commission's findings. At a press conference in Hartford last week, he questioned the need for high-capacity ammunition magazines of the kind used in the Newtown shooting. "You don't need a 30-round clip to go hunting or to honor the Constitution of the United States," he said.

A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted a week after the shooting found the percentage of Americans saying gun laws should be made more strict soaring to 55 percent. Thirteen percent said they should be made less strict, and 27 percent said they should remain the same.

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