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Gabrielle Giffords takes on powerful US gun lobby with new initiative

WASHINGTON -- Former U.S. congresswoman and gun violence survivor Gabrielle Giffords put the National Rifle Association (NRA) squarely in her sights Tuesday as she unveiled a major initiative for tougher gun laws.

Giffords, shot in the head in January 2011 while meeting constituents in her native Arizona, announced she was forming her own lobby group after a visit to Newtown, Connecticut where 20 children died in a Dec. 14 mass shooting.

“We can't just hope that the last shooting tragedy will prevent the next,” Giffords said, in an op-ed article in the USA Today newspaper co-signed by her astronaut husband Mark Kelly.

“Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources,” she said, referring specifically to the influential NRA.

Her group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, will “raise the funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby” and support political leaders who support tougher limits on the private ownership of guns.

The NRA said Tuesday it would send a representative to the White House on Thursday “to hear what they have to say,” following an invitation last week from the Obama administration for input on ways to confront gun violence.

In New York, meanwhile, the Gawker.com blog Tuesday posted a 446-page list identifying what it called every licensed gun owner in the city, minus addresses, obtained from police via a Freedom of Information Law request. Publication of a similar list in a suburban New York newspaper triggered outrage among gun owners.

Giffords said she upholds the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that sets out the rights of Americans “to keep and bear arms.”

“We don't want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home,” wrote Giffords two years to the day after she was gravely shot — and six others killed, including a 9-year-old girl — in the parking lot of a Tucson, Arizona shopping mall.

“What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence.”

Giffords and Kelly said the first change they hope to see is the introduction of comprehensive background checks for the private sale of firearms within the United States.

“I bought a gun at Walmart recently and I went through a background check. It's not a difficult thing to do,” Kelly said. “Why can't we just do that and make it more difficult for criminals and the mentally ill to get guns?”

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