Notable leaders of the gun control movement spoke Friday at a campaign event in Miami for Hillary Clinton, framing her election as key to passing stricter gun laws meant to reduce firearm deaths.
“We will be fighting from this day until Hillary Clinton is elected,” said Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). “We’re on her side, and she’s on our side, when it comes to gun violence.”
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Wilson was joined by former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head at a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011; Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin; and Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly. In June, Wilson participated in the much-publicized Democratic “sit-in” on the House floor that called for tighter gun laws.
The press conference was held at the Belafonte TACOLCY Center in Liberty City, a neighborhood that has long seen high rates of gun homicides.
Giffords, who stepped down from office in light of the severe impact of her shooting, spoke briefly of her excitement for Clinton, explaining that it is still difficult for her to speak because of her injuries.
Jared Loughner, the man who injured her and 12 others and killed six people in January 2011, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had also expressed extreme political views. He carried out the shooting with a 9mm glock pistol purchased at a sporting goods store and ammunition purchased at a Wal-Mart. He was sentenced to life in prison in November 2012.
Sybrina Fulton’s son, Trayvon Martin, was killed in February 2012 by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in a Sanford gated community — an incident that sparked a national dialogue on racial profiling, gun laws and “stand your ground” self-defense laws.
“We don’t have an issue with responsible people owning guns, but we do have a problem with gun violence in this country, and I’m glad it’s coming to light,” Fulton said.
Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband, also spoke, saying that while both he and Giffords were gun owners, they supported policy changes that would make it harder for firearms to get into the wrong hands. He pointed to the high rates of gun deaths in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of eight children and teenagers (0-19 years old) die each day as a result of guns. The United States has more than 11,000 gun homicides each year, accounting for almost 70 percent of all murders.
“Gabby and I know it’s a complex problem — there’s no one reason why [the numbers in the U.S. are so high],” he said. “But our weak gun laws are a contributing factor to this.”
As a gun owner, Kelly also had some strong words for presidential candidate Donald Trump for telling rally-goers in North Carolina earlier this week that perhaps “Second Amendment people” could prevent the possibility of Clinton getting elected. The phrase was widely criticized as a reference to people committing violence against his political opponent. The Trump campaign defended the remarks, saying in a statement he was referring to the political power of guns-rights groups.
“It’s insulting to me and to Gabby that he would call out to individuals like us and make those statements,” Kelly said, calling such words “dangerous.”
The event speakers Friday primarily called for stronger background check requirements and federal reporting guidelines to prohibit felons, domestic abusers, terrorism suspects and mentally ill individuals from acquiring guns. Kelly also raised the issue that Florida prohibits pediatricians from asking about the presence of guns in the home, which he said would enable them to advise parents about gun safety.
When asked whether efforts to prevent terrorism suspects from acquiring firearms might pose civil liberty concerns, particularly for Muslim Americans, Wilson said congressional Democrats had taken that into account.
She said the bill had been written so that individuals would have the chance to challenge their name’s presence on a list. Wilson also brought up the point that others had raised privacy concerns, saying, “if giving up a little privacy will save America, so be it. It’s a matter of inconvenience for the time being … It’s a matter of life and death.”