AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ organization, Giffords, was in Austin today for the launch of a new coalition, Texas Gun Owners for Safety.
The coalition includes about a dozen Texas hunters, sport shooters and collectors.
In 2011, Giffords was the target of an assassination attempt and was shot in the head while hosting an event in Tucson. As a result of the shooting, she suffers from a language disorder and is partially paralyzed.
The organization, founded in 2013 by Giffords and her husband, retired NASA astronaut and Navy combat veteran Mark Kelly, strives to address gun violence nationwide and has several state-based coalitions. It’s called Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence.
“Now is the time to come together — be responsible,” Giffords said. “Democrats, Republicans, everyone.”
For about an hour, the people involved in the coalition sat around a table inside an Austin hotel conference room and shared their experiences as gun owners who want to see a culture shift in Texas. A key policy idea they voiced support for was universal background checks.
“It just seems silly that [there’s] this religious dogma that we can’t do anything because it’s not the gun that kills people, it’s the person that kills people,” said Kevin Cruser, who is part of the coalition. “If that’s true, then why don’t we sell hand grenades and tanks at Walmart?”
Former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Special Agent David Chipman, who is the senior policy advisor for Giffords, spent five years working in Texas when he was still with the ATF. He says he’s seen a shift in how some gun owners are approaching the issue of safety.
“This is a conversation that I would say is routinely happening over a beer or at the Thanksgiving table,” he said. “We’re having it public so that other people can see.”
For Jane Johnston Mumey, a Houston attorney, going public with her thoughts and concerns was a difficult decision.
“To have the reality of letting friends know that are gun owners that don’t agree with me, that was hard,” she said. “I did have to think through that. Now, I have a family. What does that mean for the long run for all of us? It comes back to courage.”
Mumey previously worked for former Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson when he crafted the state’s concealed carry law.
The coalition hopes to eventually influence legislators at the Texas State Capitol.
“We’re going to be here to help support to the extent that Gabby herself or I can come and help Texans do what they would like,” Chipman said. “The ideas have to come from people in Texas.”
Gov. Greg Abbott approved the budget the 86th Legislature passed this year, which includes $1 million for a public safety campaign by the Texas Department of Public Safety on gun storage.
The agency also has a handbook on “Proper Firearm Storage to Prevent Theft and Accidental Injury to a Child.”
Giffords is traveling to other states this year for similar group launches. During the meeting in Austin, Texas Gun Owners for Safety will discuss policies they hope lawmakers can work on at both the state and federal levels.
According to Giffords’ Twitter, she’ll be in El Paso this Thursday with progressive political group Latino Victory for what she calls “a town hall against gun violence and hate.” She’ll then travel to Aurora, Colorado for another town hall there.