Gun events show divide 2 years after Arizona shooting
TUCSON, Ariz. • Two dueling gun events played out in the hometown of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on the second anniversary of her shooting, illustrating the sharp divide between gun reform advocates and Second Amendment stalwarts.
Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik staged a gun buyback Tuesday in the parking lot of the Police Department, offering $50 grocery store gift cards to anyone who surrendered firearms to be destroyed.
Just a few hundred feet away, GOP state Sen. Frank Antenori held an event where a dozen people offered cash for guns to be added to their own collections.
Police said Wednesday they took in 206 guns at Kozachik's event after noting the names of people who surrendered weapons, checking serial numbers to be sure the guns weren't stolen, and making certain the weapons were owned and purchased legally.
Antenori, who lost his re-election bid in November, said he organized his event which became an unregulated but legal marketplace for gun sales because offering gift cards for weapons amounted to stealing.
"Can you name me one firearm in working condition that's worth $50 or less?" he said.
Kozachik, also a Republican, said the gathering of men holding signs reading "Cash for Guns" bolstered his argument that gun laws need to be reformed.
"We have a fundamental hole in the private sales of guns. You can walk up right in front of a cop and buy a gun, no background check, nothing," Kozachik said. "How much more flawed can the system be?"
Antenori left the event early, and the gun-buyers refused to comment.
Giffords was severely injured in a Jan. 8, 2011, shooting rampage as she met with constituents outside a supermarket. Six people were killed and 12 others injured.
She and her husband Mark Kelly have formed a political action committee to prevent gun violence and change laws to require, among other things, comprehensive background checks for all firearms sales.
They outlined the effort this week in an editorial in USA Today and in an interview on ABC News that also provided a new glimpse at Giffords' recovery since she was shot in the head.
Giffords struggled to speak in complete sentences but provided several one-word answers to ABC News anchor Diane Sawyer in describing her recovery and response to the shootings in Tucson and Connecticut, where 20 school children were killed.
She said "daggers" to recount her tense, face-to-face encounter with suspect Jared Lee Loughner at his November sentencing when he was given life in prison. She said "sad" to describe his mental illness, and expressed frustration that her recovery has not progressed more quickly.
Asked by Sawyer about the shooting of schoolchildren in Connecticut, Giffords replied with just one word "Enough."
Giffords has a service dog named Nelson that helps her keep balance and guides her as she works with speech and physical therapists. She recently gained more movement in her right foot and can now walk faster, but she still struggles with her vision.
Kelly and Giffords wrote in the opinion piece that their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative would help raise money to support greater gun control efforts and take on the powerful gun lobby.
"Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources," the couple wrote.
Giffords' initiative harkened back to the 1980s, when Jim and Sarah Brady formed the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Brady, then-President Ronald Reagan's press secretary, was wounded in a 1981 presidential assassination attempt by a mentally ill gunman.
Brady's organization has been among the most vocal champions of gun control, but it remains to be seen whether Giffords' group can compete any better against the National Rifle Association and its fundraising and political clout.
The NRA spent at least $24 million in the 2012 election cycle. By comparison, the Brady Campaign spent around $5,800.
"This country is known for using its determination and ingenuity to solve problems, big and small," Giffords and Kelly wrote. "But when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we're not even trying and for the worst of reasons."
As a U.S. House member, Giffords was a centrist Democrat who supported gun rights and owned a Glock pistol. Giffords and Kelly said they still own two guns that are locked in a safe at their house.
Associated Press writers Michael Melia in Hartford, Conn., and Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.