Five Years of Fighting to Save Lives


To:   Interested parties
From:   Peter Ambler, Executive Director, Giffords
Date:   January 8, 2018
Re:   Five Years of Fighting to Save Lives

On January 8, 2013, following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, Gabrielle Giffords and Mark Kelly, gun owners themselves, announced the formation of an organization to fight the gun violence epidemic. Too many deaths—over 30,000 every year—were being met by silence from elected leaders more afraid of the gun lobby than motivated to take action to prevent domestic abusers, convicted felons, and individuals experiencing a mental health crisis from accessing guns. Gabby and Mark had enough. Addressing the problem that almost took her life became the cause of their lives.

Originally founded as Americans for Responsible Solutions, our organization quickly became a leader in the growing movement to save lives from gun violence. From Capitol Hill to state capitals to courtrooms, for the past five years, we’ve been leading a groundswell of courageous Americans dedicated to saving lives through safer gun laws. With the backing of over one million supporters—of whom, nearly 100,000 report that their lives have been directly impacted by gun violence and over 30,000 are gun owners—we’re advancing life saving legislative solutions, thwarting the efforts of the gun lobby to pass an agenda that will make it easier for guns to land in the wrong hands, and electing leaders who will make gun safety a top priority.

In 2016, Americans for Responsible Solutions joined forces with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the nation’s leading resource on firearms law and policy, to expand our mission and increase our impact. And in 2017, we rebranded, renaming the organization after Gabby, and launching the next chapter in the fight to save lives as Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, Giffords PAC, and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

This memo provides a look back on the progress we’ve made in the five years since Gabby and Mark launched their effort to fight for safer gun laws.

Legislative Victories

Since 2013, Giffords has been leading the fight against the gun lobby’s harmful agenda in Congress and moving the needle to pass bipartisan solutions to prevent gun violence in our communities. At the state level, we’ve helped pass over 210 new gun laws in 45 states and Washington DC. Examples of our key achievements include:

— Holding the line against dangerous gun lobby bills. Since its inception, Giffords has proved instrumental in educating elected leaders and their staff about the dangerous impacts of the gun lobby’s policy priorities. Giffords’ policy experts, coupled with veteran and law enforcement voices, are a powerful combination and have thus far defeated efforts of the gun lobby to provide severely mentally ill veterans with easy access to firearms and deregulate silencers in the 115th Congress. We’re also leading the fight against the gun lobby’s top legislative priority: federally mandated concealed carry reciprocity, which would allow more people to carry hidden, loaded guns in public with no oversight or standard for training. Although the measure passed the House, we flipped 18 votes from yes to no since the last time the House voted on this bill in 2011, and the bill faces opposition in the Senate. At the state level, against fierce opposition, we’ve successfully defeated attempts by the gun lobby to roll back background check laws in Iowa twice, in North Carolina twice. We defeated other legislation backed by the gun lobby in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and Virginia that would have made communities less safe from gun violence.

— Expanding Background Checks. Giffords has been a key figure in Congress’s push for expanded background checks since 2013, when the organization was instrumental in bringing together Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) to author and introduce their bipartisan background checks legislation. While the legislation ultimately failed, Giffords has continued to help lawmakers craft bipartisan legislation that would close loopholes in our laws and strengthen the background check system. In the executive branch, we helped advocate for and craft the Obama administration’s executive actions to narrow loopholes allowing individuals to purchase guns without a background check. At the state level, over the past five years, Giffords has helped expand and strengthen state background check systems in places like Oregon, Colorado, Connecticut, California, Delaware, and New Mexico.

— Addressing Domestic Violence. As longtime domestic violence prevention advocates, Giffords worked to secure bipartisan support in multiple Congresses for the introduction of new bills that recognize the lethal nexus between domestic abuse and gun violence. These proposals expand federal protections for victims of domestic violence by preventing abusive dating partners and convicted stalkers from accessing firearms. Giffords also led the fight for the first-ever Congressional hearing on the topic. In the states, we’ve played a key role in helping to draft and pass domestic violence bills in places like New Jersey, Utah, Rhode Island, Hawaii, Connecticut, Delaware and Oregon.

— Reducing Firearm Suicides. Giffords has been working with lawmakers, coalition partners, and stakeholders to pass Extreme Risk Protection Orders in California, Washington, and Oregon. This innovative new policy also known as a gun violence restraining order, empowers families and law enforcement to prevent firearm deaths, including suicides, by temporarily reducing access to guns by individuals at an increased risk of endangering themselves or others.

— Hate Crimes. Giffords led the charge to close gaps in state laws that allow individuals convicted of hate crimes to possess firearms. In California, the Disarm Hate Act, drafted and sponsored by Giffords Law Center, unanimously passed the state legislature and was signed into law. In New York, we support of a hate crimes bill that will help keep violent hate crime offenders from possessing guns.

— Securing Federal Funding. Recognizing the critical role that funding and staffing at federal law enforcement agencies play in keeping Americans safe, Giffords has tirelessly advocated for resource increases for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). In 2014, Giffords helped secure an increase of $19.5 million in funding for FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Bringing together both Democratic and Republican appointees, Giffords gathered four out of the previous five Surgeons General in 2016 to call on Congress to remove the budget rider that has effectively frozen federal research into gun violence for two decades. And recently, in a difficult budget climate, Giffords successfully included report language in the Fiscal Year 2018 Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill encouraging states to consider utilizing funding provided through the Crime Victims Fund to establish or expand hospital-based violence intervention programs which have proven to help reduce gun violence.

— Making gun safety a nomination priority. Giffords has been a strong voice in presidential appointments since 2014, when the organization ran a successful targeted advocacy campaign in support of US surgeon general nominee Dr. Vivek Murthy, the first surgeon general to acknowledge gun violence as a public health issue. Giffords also worked to secure support for the first permanent director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in seven years with the confirmation of B. Todd Jones. In 2017, Giffords provided senators with gun-related lines of questioning for President Trump’s cabinet nominees; a Giffords-suggested question to secretary of education nominee Betsy DeVos led to her declaration that guns may be needed in schools due to the threat of grizzly bears. And Giffords worked with senators to recommend and prepare Sandy Phillips, the sole outside witness to testify about guns and the Second Amendment during the nomination hearings for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch in March. Our efforts in 2017 also helped defeat the nomination of Brett Talley, a nominee for the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of Alabama, who had publicly pledged “support to the NRA; financially, politically and intellectually” and has been criticized for failing to disclose conflicts of interest. In December, the White House announced that it was pulling Talley’s name from consideration, a decision that came after widespread condemnation of the pick.

Electoral Victories

A critical component of addressing our nation’s gun violence epidemic is supporting the candidates who will stand up to the gun lobby and fight for safer gun laws. Giffords campaigns in key elections to elevate the issue of gun safety and build gun violence prevention majorities from state houses all the way up to the United States Senate. Over the past five years, Giffords PAC has been changing the political calculus on gun safety and supporting the election of candidates who have shown the political courage to stand up to the gun lobby and are committed to taking action on this issue once elected.

— 2017 Election Cycle: Elections last year sparked what has become the ‘suburban rebellion’ and these voters overwhelmingly support safer gun laws. In Virginia, Giffords PAC, ran a comprehensive program that reached voters online, through the mail, on the airwaves, and in person, detailing how Republican incumbents were out-of-step on the issue. The result: Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring were all swept into office backed by Giffords PAC. 12 candidates for the House of Delegates endorsed by Giffords won, bringing more gun safety champions into the chamber. Giffords PAC also supported and campaigned with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy who ran aggressively on gun violence. In Washington state Giffords PAC endorsed Manka Dhingra for state senate and partnered with the Alliance for Gun Responsibility on a program that targeted 15,000 households. Dhingra’s win gives the state legislature the ability to move forward on a gun safety legislative agenda.

— 2016 Election Cycle: Even in a tough election year, 73 percent of Giffords PAC endorsed candidates won their races. These candidates ran on and advertised their gun violence prevention positions more than in any cycle before. Giffords PAC’s flagship program was in the US Senate race in New Hampshire, where it invested $2.6 million in a targeted campaign to defeat incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte by reminding voters of her vote against universal background checks, making the race a referendum on gun violence prevention. In September 2016, Giffords PAC launched a six-week national bus tour to ignite the Vocal Majority of Americans who support safer laws, elevating the issue of gun safety in a record number of races and bringing the issue to its greatest level of prominence ever in a presidential race.

— 2015 Election Cycle: Giffords PAC built on its previous electoral successes in Virginia and ran a targeted voter communication program to help elect gun safety candidate Jeremy McPike to the Virginia State Senate. In September 2015, Giffords PAC completed a successful campaign to defend gun violence prevention champions Oregon State Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), Sen. Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro), Rep. Susan McClain (D-Forest Grove), and House Majority Leader Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) against the gun lobby’s reckless attempts to recall the legislators for their vote to strengthen Oregon’s background check system.

— 2014 Election Cycle: Giffords PAC supported Republican and Democratic candidates in federal contests across the country, including US House, US Senate, and gubernatorial races. Through targeted voter communication programs that included television and radio advertisements, direct mail flights, and digital campaigns, Giffords PAC helped elect champions for safer gun laws, including Senators Shaheen (NH), Franken (MN), Warner (VA), Peters (MI), Collins (ME); Representatives Fitzpatrick (PA), Kuster (NH), and Governor Malloy (CT). Giffords PAC also played a critical role in securing a victory on the I-594 ballot initiative in Washington state that closed the loopholes in the state’s background check system. Giffords PAC’s work included a $500,000 direct mail voter communication program.

— 2013 Election Cycle: Giffords PAC ran an aggressive direct mail, digital, and tele-townhall program in the three statewide races in Virginia — governor, lt. governor and attorney general — helping secure the victory of now Governor Terry McAuliffe, Lt. Governor Ralph Northam, and Attorney General Mark Herring, dealing a significant defeat to the NRA in their own backyard.

By the Numbers: Our Growth and Success

— 1,209,389 people have signed up to join our cause, including 98,326 who have a personal connection to gun violence and 31,392 gun owners.

— 791,684 contributions under $100 made since 2013 and 278,762 donors gave a gift under $100 since 2013.

— 210 gun safety laws passed in 45 states and the District of Columbia since 2013.

— Since 2013 we’ve endorsed 132 candidates running for office, and of those, 76 percent have won their races.