Press Release

Gabby Giffords Responds to Mass Shooting Pennsylvania that Left 4 Dead

January 28, 2018 — Today, Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, responded to a mass shooting at a car wash in Pennsylvania that left four people dead, and one other injured. It was reported that a domestic dispute led to the shooting.


“Yet again, a horrific act of gun violence has devastated a community and the lives of four young adults were senselessly cut short. My heart is with the victims of this tragedy, the first responders who rushed to the scene, and the entire Fayette County community.

“If it feels like every day there’s a new report of another mass shooting, it’s because that’s the reality we’re living in today. It’s only January 28, but already there have been at least 21 mass shootings this year in our country. Every time you hear the news of another shooting, remind yourself that this is not normal. Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed from gun violence compared to other countries. Women in America are 11 times more likely to be killed by a gun than women in other developed countries, and domestic abuse situations are five times more likely to be fatal when an abuser has access to a gun.

“We know how to solve this problem. Congress can take action to make communities safer. They can address the weaknesses in our gun laws that enable deadly domestic violence. But first, they must finally acknowledge the unacceptable rate of gun violence in this country – and take responsibility for enacting solutions. This must stop.”


Background about Domestic Violence and Firearms

Federal law prohibits abusers who have been convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors and abusers subject to certain domestic violence protective orders from purchasing or possessing guns. However, significant gaps in our laws exist. For example, the “boyfriend loophole” refers to the fact that dating partners do not qualify as domestic abusers with regards to federal firearm prohibitions unless the partners have cohabitated as spouses or have a child in common. The risk of domestic violence being committed by a dating partner is well documented. In 2008, individuals killed by current dating partners made up almost half of all intimate partner homicides. A study of applicants for domestic violence restraining orders in Los Angeles found that the most common relationship between the victim and abuser was a dating relationship.

Many states have closed this loophole with state laws. Pennsylvania, however, has only partially closed the loophole. In Pennsylvania, a person who is subject to a restraining order for abusing a dating partner is prohibited from firearm possession but a misdemeanant who abused a dating partner is not.

EXPERTS AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS: The following firearms law and law enforcement experts are available for interviews:

Gun violence prevention experts are available for comment. To arrange an interview, email


  • Incident: 4 people were killed, and a fifth person was left injured when a man opened fire at a carwash early Sunday morning in the Melcroft, PA – an unincorporated area of Fayette County.  (55 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, PA) [USA Today]

    • Those killed are 27-year-old William Porterfield, 25-year-old Chelsie Cline, 23-year-old Courtney Snyder and 21-year-old Seth Cline. [Chicago Tribune]

    • Four of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene in Fayette County. [Associated Press]

  • Shooter: Police said the suspected gunman, Timothy Smith, 28, was on life support and not expected to survive after suffering a gunshot wound to the head. [Washington Post]

  • Weapons: Smith was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and a 9mm handgun. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

    • A man who lives nearby told the newspaper that he heard about 30 gunshots over a span of several minutes. [Associated Press]

  • Motive: Police have not publicly disclosed a motive for the mass shooting – but family members of the victims told WPXI-TV that the shooting was the result of a domestic dispute. They claim the shooter was a man who used to date one of the victims. [Chicago Tribune]

    • The sister of Chelsie Cline says Smith had developed an obsession with Cline. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

    • The pregnant wife of William Porterfield said a state police investigator told her that Smith was a jealous former boyfriend of Cline. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]