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TUCSON, Ariz. — Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband launched a political action committee aimed at curbing gun violence on Tuesday as her Arizona hometown paused to mark the second anniversary of a deadly shooting rampage that left her with severe injuries.
Tucson residents rang bells at 10:11 a.m. — the moment a mentally ill gunman opened fire on Giffords as she met with constituents in 2011, killing six people and leaving 12 others injured. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild rang a bell at a fire station 19 times — one for each victim.
At the same time, two politicians on opposite ends of the gun debate held dueling weapons buy-backs outside a police station. Such events have been held around the country since the shooting at a Connecticut school that revived the gun control debate.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik asked people to turn in their guns for a $50 gift certificate from Safeway — the grocery store chain that owned the supermarket that was the site of the shooting. He wants to get guns out of people’s home and bring pressure on politicians to change gun laws.
In response to the event, a Republican outgoing state senator gathered outside the same station and offered cash for guns. Several people waved signs and held up money to approaching drivers to announce that they will buy their guns.
Giffords also took a prominent role in the gun debate on the anniversary. She and husband Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, wrote in an op-ed published in USA Today that their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative would help raise money to support greater gun control efforts.
“Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources,” the couple wrote in the column. They said that it will “raise funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby.”
The couple last week visited Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire in an elementary school, killing 20 children and six adults in December. They also met with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who has spent some of his fortune in recent years on gun control efforts.
The couple was expected to discuss the initiative in an interview airing Tuesday on ABC News.
The network offered a preview of the interview Monday and during “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. Kelly described a meeting with a father of a Connecticut victim in which he “just about lost it” after the parent showed him a picture of his child.
“In response to a horrific series of shootings that has sown terror in our communities, victimized tens of thousands of Americans, and left one of its own bleeding and near death in a Tucson parking lot, Congress has done something quite extraordinary — nothing at all,” Giffords and Kelly wrote in the op-ed.
“This country is known for using its determination and ingenuity to solve problems, big and small. Wise policy has conquered disease, protected us from dangerous products and substances, and made transportation safer. But when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we’re not even trying — and for the worst of reasons.”
By Donald Lambro
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