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 remebered the victims at 10:11 a.m. — the moment a gunman opened fire on Giffords as she met with constituents in 2011, killing six people and leaving 12 others injured.
At the same time, two politicians on opposite ends of the gun debate held dueling weapons buy-backs outside a police station.
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.
About 200 firearms, many of them old, some inoperable, were turned in during the event, Tucson police said. They were set to be destroyed later in the day. Kozachik said he handed out about $10,000 worth of grocery gift certificates.
In response to the event, a Republican outgoing state senator organized a gathering outside the same station where about a dozen people offered cash for guns. Several people waved signs and held up money to approaching drivers to announce that they would buy their weapons.
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.
The couple last week visited Newtown, Connecticut. They also met with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire who has spent some of his fortune in recent years on gun control efforts.
In the op-ed piece, Kelly and Giffords discussed what they deem lawmakers’ inaction on curbing gun violence.
“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. … But when it comes to protecting our communities from gun violence, we’re not even trying — and for the worst of reasons.”
They hope to start a national conversation about gun violence and raise funds for political activity, so “legislators will no longer have reason to fear the gun lobby.”