Giffords, Kelly launch gun control lobbying effort
As a House member, Giffords was a centrist Democrat who represented much of liberal-leaning Tucson but also more conservative, rural areas. She supported gun rights and owned a Glock pistol. The couple said they still own two guns that are locked in a safe at their house.
Newtown Selectman Jim Gaston, who was among the officials who met with Giffords and her husband last Friday when they visited, said he and many others in town are behind her efforts. "I think she'll find support from the vast majority of my fellow Newtowners," Gaston said.
Gaston said he has a couple rifles himself and has always enjoyed shooting, but there is no reason for civilians to have semiautomatic weapons.
An attorney who lives in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, Monte Frank, is organizing a bicycle ride from Sandy Hook to Washington, perhaps in March, to call for stronger gun control laws. He said he is eager to help Giffords in any way he can.
"It's been two years now that she was shot and people were killed. I would have thought that Congress would have done something when one of their own was the victim of unnecessary gun violence," Frank said.
In Tucson, residents rang bells at 10:11 a.m. — the moment a mentally ill man using a handgun with an extended magazine opened fire on Giffords as she met with constituents outside a Safeway supermarket. Mayor Jonathan Rothschild rang a bell at a fire station 19 times — one for each victim.
At the gun events, Kozachik, the councilman, said that as the Tucson shooting fades from the public's mind, issues like controlling the sale of large-capacity magazines and keeping guns from the mentally ill need attention.
"This gave us the opportunity to keep the conversation going on a very sensitive day in this community," he said.
About 200 firearms, many of them old, some inoperable, were turned in during the event, police said. They were set to be destroyed later in the day. Kozachik said he handed out about $10,000 worth of Safeway grocery gift cards.
In response to the event, Republican state Sen. Frank Antenori, who did not win re-election in November, organized a gathering outside the same police station where about a dozen people offered cash for guns. He claimed the offer of just the gift card for a gun was like "stealing it."
"Can you name me one firearm in working condition that's worth $50 or less?" Antenori said.
Antenori and Kozachik accused each other of acting out of political motivations. Antenori said the councilman was sullying both the Tucson and Connecticut school shooting victims by the timing of the buyback. Kozachik said the legislator was just trying to keep his name in the news and remain relevant.
The senator didn't stick around, while Kozachik stayed until the event ended at noon. Kozachik said the cash-for-guns scheme only served to bolster his argument that firearms laws need to be enhanced.
At his event, police documented each gun, took down names of those dropping them off and checked to be sure they were legal before loading them into a truck for destruction. A few hundred feet away, men holding signs reading "Cash for Guns" bought rifles and handguns. No paperwork, no questions asked.
Tom Ditsch, who stood watching both events, said neither accomplished anything. "Every gun that came in was an old gun, no assault weapons," he said with disgust. "They didn't even take any weapons off the streets that they wanted to."
Associated Press writers Michael Melia in Hartford, Conn., and Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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