Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords testified in favor of Initiative 594 and its requirement for criminal background checks for virtually all Washington gun purchasers Tuesday in Olympia. But how far Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly will go on behalf of the November ballot campaign is undecided.
“We don’t know yet,” Kelly said shortly after he and Giffords spoke to the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the two rival measures - I-594 and rival gun rights measure I-591 - which are headed to the ballot. “We are looking at what our involvement will be here whether it’s on the ground or other resources. But there are a lot of other states where similar things are going on. Then you have the congressional elections.’’
Giffords was gravely injured in the head by a 2011 shooter whose spree killed six people and wounded a dozen others, but she continues to recover. The couple’s organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, planned to air ads Tuesday before and after President Obama’s State of the Union Address – featuring Giffords sending a message to Congress that “it’s too dangerous to wait.”
Kelly said their interest in state campaigns is the result of Congress having failed to pass legislation in the wake of the Sandy Hook killings in Connecticut in late 2012.
“We want to see some commonsense legislation passed. If not at the federal level, we want to help in states that are trying to get this passed at the state level. Colorado was successful. It was successful in Delaware. You know – a similar provision in Nevada got through the Legislature but was vetoed by the governor,” Kelly said, adding they “want to do our part to help.’’
Giffords testified briefly, asking lawmakers to be courageous and saying the nation was counting on them.
Brian Judy of the National Rifle Association testified that Giffords’ shooter went through a background check, according to The Associated Press report on the hearing.
"Along with the empathy for these victims, I feel disappointment that these tragedies would be exploited," Judy said.
Zack Silk, campaign manager for Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility's I-594 campaign, said he expects Giffords and Kelly to be “engaged” in the I-594 effort. “We expect them to be close partners,” he said.
“The hardest thing in a campaign is to focus people’s attention – especially this early. There is no better way than to bring someone with such stature and profile as they have.’’