Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly marked the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting rampage this week with the announcement that they were forming a new organization to work in favor of gun-control legislation.
"Two years ago today, a mentally ill young man shot me in the head, killed six of my constituents, and wounded 12 others," Giffords wrote in an email announcing the creation of Americans for Responsible Solutions. "My recovery has been tough, but I've worked very hard, and I feel lucky to be with my family and have this opportunity to do something important for my country."
"Since that terrible day, America has seen 11 more mass shootings, but no plan from Congress to reduce gun violence," Giffords added. "After the massacre of 20 children and six of their teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary, however, it's clear: This time must be different."
In a USA Today op-ed, Giffords and Kelly said Americans for Responsible Solutions would counter the political efforts of the NRA and other gun-rights organizations.
"Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups," wrote Giffords and Kelly. "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. Other efforts such as improving mental health care and opposing illegal guns are essential, but as gun owners and survivors of gun violence, we have a unique message for Americans."
Giffords and Kelly launched the effort as the Obama administration is reviewing the possibility of new gun restrictions, including a ban on assault rifles and extended handgun clips, as well as more background checks and tracking of gun sales.
LAWYERS, GUNS AND GIFT CARDS
In what he called an effort to rebuild some of the community unity that existed in the wake of the shooting rampage that shook Tucson two years ago, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik brought together a long lineup of elected officials that are involved with his midtown Ward 6 office.
Among the elected officials who showed up at the Loft Cinema on Monday, Jan. 7: U.S. Reps. Raúl Grijalva and Ron Barber; Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild; more than a half-dozen state lawmakers; and Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias.
Arizona Daily Star cartoonist Dave Fitzsimmons was on hand to emcee the event and used the sound effects on his iPhone to good effect to keep the conversation moving along.
The elected officials tackled a wide range of topics, including gun control, immigration, health-care and student-housing pressures. For the most part, there wasn't a lot of disagreement, although state Rep. Ethan Orr, the only Republican on the panel besides Kozachik, said he was leaning toward supporting the Rosemont Mine, as long as Rosemont Copper followed through with all the proper permits, while Barber and others said they were very concerned with the mining company's plans.
The town hall—or "roast," as Kozachik was billing it—came one day before Kozachik was hosting a gun buyback with the Tucson Police Department. That particular project, in which the city was offering a $50 Safeway gift card to anyone who turned in a weapon—had local firearm enthusiasts all revved up, and a number of them, including Republican Frank Antenori, turned out for the town hall.
Antenori, who is giving up his seat in the state Senate next week after losing his reelection bid in a new district that includes much of midtown Tucson, spent the evening with a videocam trained on the speakers. Although he promised over the weekend that he was bringing 200 people to the town hall to make it "pretty feisty," it appeared that many of his pals decided to stay home on Monday night. For the most part, the discussion remained civil, although one knucklehead yelled out that Barber was a "liar" during a discussion on gun rights.
The town hall and gun buyback—the latter of which went down after our deadline, so we are not able to bring you details about how that worked out—were the latest clashes between Antenori and Kozachik, who have been fighting in the press for years.
Antenori told the press last week that he and a few friends would be attending the gun buyback, scheduled for tomorrow morning, to try to outbid the city by setting up a "kind of swap meet" where he and his fellow gun enthusiasts will provide anyone who wants to give up a gun with a better price than a "crummy" $50 Safeway gift certificate.
"This guy is taking advantage of people for political purposes and we're going to give people a chance to part with their firearms for a more reasonable, fair price," says Antenori, who believes that Kozachik is disrespecting the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting rampage by having the gun buyback.
Kozachik says that Antenori is the "person who is trying to make a stunt out of this. ... I chose that date very specifically because two years ago, this community really came together, very unified with a sense of purpose. ... We have Columbine and we talk about it for a week and then go on to the next news cycle. And then we have an Aurora, and then we have a Connecticut. This is explicitly intended to keep the conversation alive in this community at this time. And the fact that it's getting such a negative blowback form some of these guys like Antenori and the NRA really just makes the point that this is a conversation that we have to have today in this community."
Antenori planned to bring $500 to the buyback and knew other people who will be bringing more money. He was hopeful that he and his allies wouldn't get into bidding contests that will drive up the price of guns. He planned to put whatever he buys into his gun safe at home.
In particular, he told The Skinny he was looking for low-caliber handguns because the ones in his current collection have too much firepower for him to use them to teach his teenage kids how to shoot pistols.
As Kozachik and Antenori bantered back and forth in the leadup to the town hall, Antenori took offense to a comment that Kozachik made to KGUN TV news reporter Marcelino Benito while dismissing people upset over the gun buyback.
"I understand that a lot of people feel like they're not the pretty girl at the prom anymore and they're not getting all the attention they deserve, but this isn't the venue to get it," Kozachik told Benito last week. "We're talking about serious issues."
Antenori says he has too much testosterone to identify with a girl at a prom.
"I do not want to be the prom queen," Antenori says. "Maybe when I was in high school, I wanted to do the prom queen, but I sure as heck never wanted to be the prom queen. I think Steve K. has problems. He's got internal demons or something that are playing on him. If he wants to be the prom queen, he can knock his socks off. Of course, if he was the prom queen, I wouldn't touch him with a frickin' million-mile pole."
Kozachik says he didn't mention Antenori by name, so he finds it interesting that the outgoing state senator believes Kozachik was targeting him.
"I think Frank's unbalanced," Kozachik says.