WASHINGTON -- In a rare public speech Wednesday, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) spoke out about the need to pass "common-sense" gun bills that keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.
"Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women," Giffords told a crowd at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. "Criminals with guns. Stalkers with guns. Abusers with guns. That makes gun violence a women's issue."
In 2011, Giffords was shot point-blank in the head while meeting with constituents near Tucson, Ariz. She and her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, started a gun violence prevention PAC called Americans for Responsible Solutions to help elect candidates supportive of key legislation to prevent gun violence.
Giffords and Kelly spoke Wednesday at a discussion of policy solutions to protect women from gun violence, sponsored by the Center for American Progress. One such solution, a bill proposed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), would add convicted stalkers and non-cohabiting dating partners to the list of domestic abusers who cannot legally purchase a gun. Statistics show that stalking often leads to physical abuse and homicide, but a new report released by CAP on Wednesday found that there are at least 11,986 convicted stalkers living in the United States who can walk into a store, pass a background check and legally purchase a firearm.
Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy captain and former astronaut, said he and Giffords are both responsible gun owners and that he believes the vast majority of gun owners use their weapons safely. But part of protecting the Second Amendment, he said, is ensuring that the right is exercised responsibly.
"Today we're talking about keeping guns out of the hands of men who stalk and abuse women," Kelly said. "We're talking about passing laws that will absolutely save lives, especially the lives of women. ... Today we are closer than ever to doing this, but we can't do it if we don't all work together."
ARS is advocating for Klobuchar's bill, for stronger background checks and for prohibiting the sale of firearms to domestic violence abusers under restraining orders by encouraging faster record reporting into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) have introduced additional legislation in the House and Senate to prohibit domestic abusers from buying and owning guns. Capps' bill would extend federal firearms prohibitions to abusive dating partners who are subject to a domestic violence restraining order, and it would allow a judge to issue a temporary protective order to bar an abuser from possessing or purchasing a weapon in the days between a woman leaving her partner and the court hearing.
Blumenthal's bill would also prevent alleged domestic abusers with temporary restraining orders issued against them from purchasing guns. Current gun restrictions only apply to permanent restraining orders, leaving a loophole in which some abusers can quickly buy guns.
A bill that would have strengthened background checks for gun purchases failed to pass the Senate last year, but ARS hopes to stack Congress with like-minded lawmakers this November. The group is jumping into seven Senate and four House races this election cycle, and it has calculated that Republican and independent women voters in swing states are more likely to support candidates who would vote to keep guns away from domestic abusers.
"Together we can change our laws," Giffords said Wednesday. "Together we can win elections. Please join your voice with mine."