If anyone has earned the right to speak about gun violence, particularly acts involving public officials, it's Gabby Giffords.
The former representative from Arizona was shot in the head in 2011 while meeting with voters in Tuscon, Arizona. Six other people were killed in the shooting, widely described as an assassination attempt, but Giffords survived.
"Hillary wants to abolish, essentially, abolish the Second Amendment," Trump said in Wilmington, North Carolina. "And by the way… if she gets to pick her judges, [there's] nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I dunno."
Republicans and Democrats interpreted his comments as everything from a crude joke about our country's shooting epidemic to a threat of violence against Clinton. Others suggested they were a call to get Second Amendment voters to the polls. Trump and his campaign have maintained that he was simply encouraging gun rights advocates to vote and stop Clinton from being elected.
Not long after, Giffords — well-known for her centrist viewpoints — issued a scathing rebuke of Trump's words.
"Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence," the statement read. "Responsible, stable individuals won't take Trump's rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed."
Regardless of what Trump meant, Giffords makes an important point: the last thing any public figure should be doing is using language that may be interpreted as an invitation to enact violence. In fact, Giffords and her husband, a Navy combat veteran and the son of two police officers, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS). The organization aims to simultaneously protect Second Amendment rights while enacting laws to make America safer. In many ways, they angle themselves as representing the American people and your typical gun owner.
Among her and ARS' suggestions, Giffords — a proud gun owner herself — wants to expand federal backgrounds checks to private sellers like those at gun shows. They also hope to enact laws that stop people with a history of domestic abuse or stalking from getting a gun, increase the penalties against gun traffickers, and invest money into studying the causes and impacts of gun violence.
Those laws have the potential to do a lot of good. According to the New York Times, eight of the most recent mass shooters in America got guns despite a history of crime or mental illness. On its website, ARS states that "6,410 women were murdered in the United States by an intimate partner using a gun" between 2001 and 2012.
"A lot of the different policy proposals from background checks to domestic violence proposals are all bills that have already been introduced," Sean Simons, the deputy press secretary for Americans for Responsible Solutions, told A Plus. "I would encourage folks to call their members of Congress and really advocate for these policies that they support... I think over time, if we are able to excite them and motivate them to go out and push these things, eventually we'll see a lot of progress."
Some of that progress is already coming to fruition. Americans for Responsible Solutions supported a background checks bill in Washington state known as Initiative 594. The bill was put to a referendum, which differed from the typical approach of going through Congress or the state legislature. It passed with overwhelming support from Washington voters and universal background checks on all gun sales — including private sales — is now law of the land in Washington.
In Oregon, Giffords and her organization backed a law that addressed a loophole which let unlicensed sellers transfer a firearm to another person without a background check. 83 percent of gun owners supported the bill.
In Delaware, ARS got behind Governor Jack Markell to help pass a law that prevented someone who had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse in the last five years from being able to get a gun. Previously, if a "dating abuser" or a former cohabitant had been convicted in a court of law beyond reasonable doubt of "misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence," they would still be permitted to purchase or possess a gun in Delaware.
That same law also expanded restrictions on abusers who weren't living with a spouse at the time of their crime. Previously, Since many women flee abusive homes, men who were living alone but convicted of domestic abuse crimes were still able to purchase a weapon as the crime didn't occur while they were cohabitants.
Similar laws have been passed in traditionally conservative states like Louisiana, South Carolina and Alabama, proving that the heart of expanded gun control legislation is a bipartisan issue.
"We think of gun violence and that it's only a problem Congress can solve," Simons added. "Certainly, they play a big role in it, but we've also seen a lot of states throughout the country step up to close loopholes in the background check system and to make it harder for domestic abusers to buy guns. So, we're pretty enthusiastic about the progress we've seen at the state level."
Cover photo: Krista Kennell / Shutterstock.com.