On Sunday, former Arizona Rep Gabby Giffords attended a New York gun show. Giffords is perhaps best known for surviving a gunshot to the head two and a half years ago, in a Tucson mass shooting that killed six people, including a federal judge and nine-year-old girl. She resigned to recover a year later, and is now a national face of gun control. At Sunday's gun show, Giffords praised efforts by New York lawmakers to increase background checks — a rule that was in practice at the gun show, and which Giffords and astronaut husband Mark Kelly showed up to support — and, afterwards, Giffords publicly plead for the reduction of gun violence. At the event, Kelly said that he and Gifford both owned guns, and the couple has previously supported the Second Amendment. Is anyone else confused?
Giffords hasn't attended a gun show since she was shot in January of 2011, during a constituent meeting held outside a parking lot in Tucson, Casas Adobes. Giffords was one of 18 people shot at the scene, and the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and deemed unfit to serve trial. It took Giffords a year to recover her mental and physical capabilities, and she then resigned, promising to continue in public service.
The New York law serves to increase background checks for gun buyers, with particular monitoring of gun show sales. The Associated Press' report of the event reads, none too subtly:
Giffords, a face of the national gun control effort, slowly walked hand-in-hand with Kelly through the large room where Winchester rifles, muzzle-loaders, antique knives and other weapons were on display and "Don't Tread on Me" flags hung from poles.
They stopped at display tables, Kelly asked dealers questions about the weapons, and Giffords shook hands and smiled when people greeted her. "Good to see you looking good!" some said. Kelly bought a book on Colt revolvers, and said later he probably would have bought a gun if he had had more time. He said both he and his wife are gun owners.
The AP is clearly baffled. Reuters was more objective, positing the story as a clear example of Giffords' appeal to strengthen and extend the New York law, which the NRA and other gun advocacy groups say restricts freedoms and is a breach of Second Amendment rights.
Such a move closes the so-called "gun show" loophole, which allowed show buyers to avoid the background checks they are required to go have when buying firearms at a retail outlet.
"It's great to be able to see people sell the firearms they have collected," Kelly said, noting that he and Giffords still have firearms in their home. "It's great for Gabby and I to see a system that works."
Since the shooting in Tuscon, Giffords has set up a super PAC organization to fight for greater gun-control measures, which has already raised more than $6 million from donors.
So, what exactly is Giffords' stance on gun control?
Well, she and husband Kelly recently embarked on a national tour entitled Rights And Responsibilities, which aimed to show lawmakers that there is broad support for gun-control measures, most notably the expanded background checks at the heart of the New York law. Giffords does support the Second Amendment right of every American to own a gun, but wants to keep firearms from the hands of "criminals, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill, and other dangerous people from purchasing firearms," according to her website. She and Kelly are particularly opposed to the "gun show loophole," which allows those demographics to purchase firearms without background checks at gun shows, or on the Internet.
Giffords has described herself as a "former Republican," and her stance on firearms supports Second Amendment rights whilst being fiercely opposed to gun violence. It's an odd dichotomy, but Giffords is known as a "Blue Dog Democrat," meaning a Democrat that leans more to the Right than the typical member of the party.
In August, George Zimmerman, another of the nation's most prominent figures in the gun-control debate (for very different reasons) went gun shopping in Florida — even though, by our count, he owned at least two more guns at home. There, Zimmerman posed for photographs with employees. That was also pretty weird.