WASHINGTON -- Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Wednesday launched a campaign to encourage New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to fill the Senate seat vacated by the late Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) with someone who supports expanded background checks on gun sales.
In an email sent out via her PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Giffords urges supporters to sign the group's petition calling on Christie to "honor Senator Lautenberg's legacy" by choosing a successor who, like Lautenberg, will push for tighter background checks.
"Frank Lautenberg spent a career working tirelessly to reduce gun violence in our country," reads the email, signed by Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly. "Senator Lautenberg cannot be replaced. However, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must now select a successor. And he should pick one who supports expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the deranged."
The email links to a petition that presses Christie on the issue and also asks signers if they are gun owners or if they've been affected by gun violence.
The effort to keep attention on the issue of gun control comes at a time when Senate gun legislation appears to be stuck in a holding pattern after it failed by a few votes in April. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) indicated Tuesday that he talked to Vice President Joe Biden this week about the bill, and separately talked to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has been taking the lead on the background checks provision. But beyond talks, and despite the fact that Reid has vowed to bring the bill back up later this year, there are no signs the bill has the 60 votes needed to advance.
Still, gun control advocates are trying to keep momentum going on background checks -- and one of their strongest arguments is that the majority of Americans are behind them. Giffords' email notes that a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 96 percent of New Jersey residents support expanding background checks.
"These are staggering numbers, and Governor Christie should consider the will of New Jersey voters while making his selection," she wrote. "As we move closer to a second vote on background checks, this decision could make the difference between passing background checks, or another crushing defeat."
Giffords adds, "That's why your signature is so important. We'll make sure Governor Christie receives it."
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