Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords joined a panel Oct. 20 in Sterling as part of her Vocal Majority Bus tour to help prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership. Panel members discussed their experiences with gun violence and the importance of fighting through political difficulties in helping to reduce the nearly 33,000 gun-related deaths in America each year.
“Be bold, be courageous. The nation is counting on you,” Giffords said before the crowd of more than 150 at the event at the Cascades Library. “Never stop fighting.”
Giffords was accompanied on the panel by democratic Virginia 10th Congressional district candidate LuAnn Bennett, delegate Kathleen Murphy of the Virginia state house’s 34th district, her long-time aid Pia Carusone, former Texas state senator Wendy Davis, Emily’s List Executive Director Jessica O’Connell and Lori Haas, Virginia State Director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
At a constituent event in Tuscon, Giffords survived a gunshot wound to her head in an attempted assassination in 2011. Her subsequent recovery garnered the nation’s attention. After regaining the ability to walk and communicate, she resigned from congress in 2012 to further focus on her recovery.
The 2013 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. inspired her to devote efforts to stop gun violence. Along with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, she formed the Americans for Responsible Solutions super PAC. The Vocal Majority tour is in support of ARS, which is traveling to 14 states and 42 cities.
On Oct 20, the super PAC announced it was funding campaign ads against Bennett’s opponent in the 10th congressional district race, Republican incumbent Barbara Comstock. Bennett brought up Comstock’s record on gun legislation during the panel, specifically knocking her for voting against blocking people on the terrorist watch list from legally buying guns.
“I‘m running for this congressional seat because I want to find commonsense solutions to problems and there is no problem that is more critical to find a commonsense solution for than stopping gun violence.”
Murphy, whose district includes parts of Loudoun County, talked how she had to overcome political opposition on passing a bill that prevented convicted multiple-time repeat domestic abuse offenders from buying guns.
I thought I could go in and instantly offer a bill that would be logical,” Murphy said. “Much to my surprise (other members of the General Assembly) didn’t think that taking guns away from repeat violent domestic abusers, that had been convicted twice, made good sense.”
She also talked about her brother’s murder at the hands of gunmen during a robbery and how it inspired her to work on reform efforts.
“Nothing staggering happens quite the way like when someone calls you the phone and says ‘your brother is dead’,” Murphy said. “You don’t put that away some place. You don’t get over it. For me the whole issue of preventing gun violence is a real focus of my life.”
Carusone, who is a co-founder of ARS with Giffords and Kelly, said the tour is in part as a way to organize the majority of Americans that support gun law reform. She said the opposition voice is drowned out by the much louder and better organized pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association.
“We know we are the majority but we have not been vocal enough,” Carusone said. “The other side, the minority that wants to stop progress on the issue of gun violence, has been very, very vocal.”