By Mike Lillis - 10/14/15 01:09 PM EDT
Giffords kicks off new gun reform push to protect women
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) on Wednesday launched a new campaign aimed to protect women from gun violence.
The bipartisan coalition — an eclectic mix of female policymakers, law enforcers, educators, activists and Hollywood stars — is designed both to highlight the gun threat facing women and to promote the policy changes to combat the scourge nationwide.
Giffords, who was nearly killed in a shooting rampage in her Tucson district in 2011, said the problem is urgent and demands an immediate response.
"We have a problem in our country," Giffords said during a conference in Washington examining domestic violence. "Too many women are dying from gun violence."
Dubbed the Women's Coalition for Common Sense, the campaign is urging tougher laws to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people, including convicted stalkers and domestic abusers.
Aside from Giffords, the group includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R), former GOP Rep. Connie Morella (Md.), Neera Tanden, head of the Center for American Progress, and the actress Alyssa Milano.
"We don't have to agree about everything, but we can agree on this: Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women," Giffords said. "Criminals with guns. Abusers with guns. Stalkers with guns.
"That makes gun violence a women's issue."
The group comes furnished with a number of daunting statistics.
• A woman in the United States is 11 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed countries, they note, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• Between 1980 and 2008, firearms were the weapon of choice in more than two-thirds of all spouse and ex-spouse homicides, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
• Access to firearms by domestic abusers makes their female victims five times more likely to be killed, the CDC found in 2012.
Janeé Harteau, chief of police in Minneapolis, said the focus on gender is an appropriate one as law enforcers and policymakers seek ways to rein in gun violence against women.
"When is the last time you saw you a woman shoot up a school?" she asked. "You don't. ... The reality is women are brought up differently.
"We're losing both sexes, because our men are going to prison and our women and children are dying," Harteau added. "We need to do something."
The effort arrives as the issue of gun violence is again churning national headlines following several high-profile shootings around the country.
In August, a pair of television reporters, Alison Parker and Adam Ward, were shot and killed during a live broadcast in Roanoke, Va., by a disgruntled former employee who posted the grisly episode online. And this month, a 26-year-old gunman killed nine people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself at a a community college in Roseburg, Ore.
"The idea that we have to worry about gun violence when one of our children goes to a movie, or a school, or to work, is sickening," Barbara Parker, mother of Alison Parker, said Wednesday. "Parents should not have to live with that kind of fear."
She urged people to vote for lawmakers who support tougher laws aimed at keeping violent people from accessing guns.
Such reforms have no chance of moving through a Congress controlled by Republicans who are near-universal in their opposition to new restrictions on firearms. But the string of tragedies has propelled the issue of gun violence onto the presidential campaign stage in a way unseen in recent cycles.
The debate is largely one of sharp partisan disagreement; most Republicans oppose tougher gun laws and most Democrats support them. But Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders raises .4 million on Ryan's budget panel warning Sanders: My emails would be just as harsh about Clinton AT&T-Time Warner merger: Rigged by cozy regulatory relationships? MORE (I-Vt.), a Democratic hopeful, has recently been under fire from the left for a history of voting against new gun restrictions — an unusual predicament for the liberal icon. And Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonGraham: GOP Senate could rein in Clinton White House Albright: Trump a ‘useful idiot’ for Putin Trump admits he's 'somewhat behind' in the polls MORE, the front-running Democrat, made sure to highlight that record during Tuesday night's presidential debate.
"We have to look at the fact that we lose 90 people a day from gun violence," Clinton said in hammering Sanders's record on the issue. "This has gone on too long, and it's time the entire country stood up against the NRA."
Giffords, for one, would surely agree.
"We can change our laws. We can fight for responsible solutions," she said Wednesday to a standing ovation. "Together, we can make women and their families safer."