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Gabrielle Giffords, Mark Kelly push for “responsible” gun control

  • Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly speak at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly speak at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly hold hands at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly hold hands at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly walk toward the podium at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly walk toward the podium at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Mark Kelly, (right) astronaut and husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, inspects a Marlin 30-30 hunting rifle Village Gun Store owner Stan Holz in Whitefield; Friday, July 5, 2013. Kelly later purchased a Savage Axis rifle, his sixth gun.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

    Mark Kelly, (right) astronaut and husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, inspects a Marlin 30-30 hunting rifle Village Gun Store owner Stan Holz in Whitefield; Friday, July 5, 2013. Kelly later purchased a Savage Axis rifle, his sixth gun.

    (ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

  • Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly speak at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly hold hands at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly walk toward the podium at a press conference in Manchester; Friday, July 5, 2013. The two are touring the country on a "Rights and Responsibilities" tour to talk about stronger background checks on firearms purchases.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)
  • Mark Kelly, (right) astronaut and husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, inspects a Marlin 30-30 hunting rifle Village Gun Store owner Stan Holz in Whitefield; Friday, July 5, 2013. Kelly later purchased a Savage Axis rifle, his sixth gun.<br/><br/>(ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff)

Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords lobbied yesterday in Manchester for tightened national gun control legislation that she and others insist will make it harder for criminals and mentally ill people to purchase firearms illegally.

Speaking with her husband, Mark Kelly, inside the Millyard Museum, the former U.S. representative and victim two years ago of a deadly mass shooting in Tucson, Ariz., told a small gathering of journalists and law enforcement officials that curbing gun violence “takes courage.”

“Courage to do what’s right, the courage of new ideas,” she said, reading from a prepared statement. “I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time to come together, be responsible, Democrats, Republicans and everyone. We must never stop fighting. . . . Be bold. Be courageous. The nation is counting on you.”

The two are near the end of a weeklong tour of seven states with strong gun traditions and where senators voted both for and against new gun control legislation that was ultimately defeated in April. The trip, orchestrated by Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group they founded in January in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., aims to reinvigorate support for expanded background checks on firearm purchases.

Unlike a tense gun control rally last month outside the State House that led to the arrest of a gun rights advocate, the press conference yesterday drew few outside protesters – possibly the results of a relatively late location disclosure and sweltering outdoor conditions, and that it was closed to the public.

Giffords, a Democrat, is still recovering from the 2011 shooting, which left six people dead and 13 injured, including herself, and still lacks full control of the right side of her body. She spoke slowly as she read the brief statement, her speech labored, and deferred questions to Kelly, a retired astronaut and Navy captain.

Recounting his own childhood in a household where firearms were present, Kelly insisted that he and Giffords come to the gun control debate from “the perspective of a gun owner.”

“We’re strong supporters of the Second Amendment,” he said. “I know the value of having the right gun in the right place. But I think we’ve gotten to a point in this country where we’re seeing gun violence 20 times higher than any country that I think we would ever want to be compared to. And we need to do something about that.”

Earlier in the day, Kelly visited a gun store and shot at a firing range in Whitefield. At the press conference, he described how mass shootings like Newtown happen too frequently, but are not the biggest obstacle to preventing gun violence.

“We have an epidemic of daily gun violence, where there are approximately 30 murders or so every day, often with a handgun,” he said. “And a lot of times, those guns are purchased through gun trafficking or illegally purchased over the internet and at gun shows.”

He said he and Giffords believe in “common sense” legislation that keeps intact the rights of responsible gun owners while helping to ensure that firearms remain out of the hands of criminals and mentally unstable individuals.

“With the rights of gun ownership come some responsibilities,” Kelly said. “I think as a nation we’re not always the strongest when our laws are the weakest, and our Second Amendment rights can be fully in force and respected, and at the same time make it more difficult for criminals to get guns.”

Asked whether the couple had been able to meet with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who voted against the Senate bill in April, Kelly said they had not, but that he had spoken with her a week ago and had “a good conversation.”

Jeff Grappone, an Ayotte spokesman, said the senator sympathizes with Giffords’s situation and ongoing recovery, and continues to push for stronger enforcement of the background checks currently in place, as well as increasing prosecutions of gun-related crimes and improving the country’s mental health system.

But Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance suggested that though existing checks have prevented about 1.7 million illegal transfers, they can and should do more.

“There is a gaping hole in our laws that allows criminals and others to go to private sellers, at gun shows, and on the internet and elsewhere to buy guns with no background check, no questions asked,” she said.

Nashua Police Commissioner Chairman Thomas Pappas acknowledged that expanded checks wouldn’t eliminate gun violence, but he said they would make a serious dent in solving the problem.

“Criminals may still obtain firearms illegally, and law enforcement will continue to pursue that, as they have,” he said. “But that should not stop us from doing all we can to stop criminals and the mentally ill from buying guns at private sales with no questions asked.”

Kelly reiterated the point.

“Nothing is going to drive gun violence in this country to zero, but we can make some concrete steps to reducing it, and I think expanding background checks is the thing that can be done that would be the most effective thing.”

Kelly also said he disagreed with those who feel expanded checks will prompt further gun restrictions.

“There are some people that strongly believe that expanded background checks lead to a gun registry, that leads to confiscation, which leads to a tyrannical government. I don’t believe that,” he said, noting that the defeated Senate bill made a gun registry illegal.

At the end of the event, there were about five protesters gathered outside.

One gun rights advocate who refused to give his name but said he was a doctor from the Seacoast region said he sympathized with Giffords, to a degree.

“I feel bad for her,” he said. “She’s been through a lot. My brother has brain damage and I’m a doctor myself, so I know how difficult that can be.”

But he said that didn’t obscure the fact that expanded checks are unnecessary and an infringement on his and others’ gun rights.

“It’s amazing that the left is all about free choice, except when it comes to this,” he said.

Asked whether the group planned to demonstrate for a while, he said, “Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. It’s kind of hot.”

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

Legacy Comments11

To the readers: based on the FACT that leftist Obama has been caught in no less than 7 Major scandals from Gun Running to spying on Americans ....who in their right mind thinks that Obama and his leftist minions will not keep the gun ownership records for future use?

Gun Control!!! That says it all... Next will be registration, then the Gestapo will come knocking down your door.

Why don't these well-meaning people work on what makes people kill, rather than trying to further regulate the tool used?

Again, who cares about the "tools", it is the person using the "tool" that needs the background check, so it is known if they are someone who might want to kill with the "tool". Kinda like it is not the car but the person who might be drunk driving the car that makes it a weapon.

hypocrite mark Kelly and gabby Gifford, mark was caught buying an ar 15 and 45 semiauto but both push for more gun control you figure it out looks like hypocracy to mee

One thing I think is overlooked, the blah. blah, blah about criminals getting guns. It's not criminals with guns that are the issue, it's the unhinged and deranged that get guns and shoot up school yards. Technically, until they have been convicted or shot up a school yard, these are all "law abiding citizens". Forget the criminals, it's these law abiding citizens that we need protection from. Think on that for awhile.

Though not seen around Concord, the fact is that elsewhere at gun shows, some people set up tables with 100s of guns on them and claim that they are selling a collection. Thats all it takes to avoid being required to conduct background checks for a sale. The ATF could step in, and shut these folks down, but they choose not to do so. I wonder why...perhaps so certain agendas can be pushed forcefully? Another way to stop this loophole-and I say this as a gun owner and firm believer in my 2A rights-would be for the States, or even municipalities, to pass laws requiring anyone selling at gun shows to have a Federal Firearms License, just as a gun dealer has. People who travel around to multiple shows selling 100s of guns are not merly selling off a few personally owned guns.

Is a small gathering of journalists and law enforcement officials, a polite way of saying, a poor showing?

No - it was a closed event open to credentialed press only, and as the article states, closed to the public. I drove by the museum before the talk and saw a very small group of protesters. When I drove by again, 10 minutes later at 2:40 they were all gone.

If you read the whole article, you might see why it was a small gathering.

I stand by my statement, "a polite way of saying, a poor showing". The story could have said, there was a large gathering of journalists and law enforcement officials, but there wasn't, so they didn't.

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