Giffords, Kelly address tougher firearm laws at news conference
Web Producer: Mekita Rivas
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Former congresswoman Gabriel Giffords placed flowers, Wednesday, on a memorial outside the same Safeway location where mass shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire on Jan. 8, 2011.
She and her husband Mark Kelly held a news conference at the site to urge Congress to support universal background check legislation. She spoke about a dozen words, "Be bold. Be courageous. Please support background checks. Thank you very much."
During the news conference, Kelly described Gifford's drive to heal herself. Kelly said, "Often when she heads off into therapy, the last thing she'll say to me is." And Giffords continued, "Fight, fight, fight."
Giffords and Kelly made it clear -- they stand behind their 2nd Amendment rights. "I don't think you'll find somebody that's a stronger supporter of the 2nd amendment than Gabby and I. We own firearms for the same reasons many Americans do," said Kelly as Giffords nodded.
But Kelly said this discussion isn't about gun rights, it's about public safety. "And keeping the guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill a d criminals," said Kelly.
Giffords and Kelly are urging senators, including John McCain and Jeff Flake, to pass legislation requiring universal background checks for gun purchases. "If that information was there, it's pretty clear that the man who did this, at this Safeway on January 8th, 2011 would have failed that background check," he said.
But Kelly said that's only part of the problem. "The other problem is that he would have easily gone down the street to a gun show or on the internet to gain access to a firearm without being subject to a background check."
Kelly said statistics show universal background checks and closing gunshow loopholes are supported by a majority of Americans and the NRA. Those statistics include: 92% of American households, including 74% of NRA members, support universal background checks. 90% of Arizona support universal background checks.
"So it is clear that this legislation could do a very commonsense thing to make it more difficult for the criminals and mentally ill have access to a firearm," said Kelly.
Some of the January 8 survivors and relatives joined Giffords and Kelly. Each one delivered an emotional appeal to the public to support background checks.
Emily Nottingham, the mother of shooting victim Gabe Zimmerman, said, "It's very hard for me to be here today here where my son gunned down here where his body lied on that sidewalk for many hours. Dead."
Shooting victim Suzie Hileman took shooting victim Christina-Taylor Green to the Safeway that fateful day to meet her Congresswoman. "26 months ago picked up Christina in her driveway and kissed her mother goodbye. She kissed her mother goodbye. If we can save one life, if we can keep one family from feeling the awful empty ache, if we can do something, she said.
Randy Gardner, another shooting victim, said, "we currently live in a country that allows 40 percent of gun purchases to go unchecked and we believe that's unacceptable."
Pam Simon said, "I join with my friends Gabby and Mark in calling on the senators to vote yes, to get this first step, this common sense legislation through our Congress."
Supporters at the rally said it was hard to see people, once again, huddled within the now infamous Safeway parking lot.
Nancy Lyngby is a longtime supporter of Giffords. She says if it had not been for a routine errand running long that fateful morning, she would have been at the shooting scene.
"You hear the victims from this and you hear the victims from the other ones around the country and it's time something changes," Lyngby told 9OYS.
Wednesday's attendees say they are encouraged said change may be on the way.
"We have a great community here and I really feel that people need to get together and we need to set an example," Lyngby continued.