Press Release

Giffords Endorses New Wave of Candidates Stepping up to Challenge Gun Lobby-Backed Politicians

As Part of the #VoteCourage Campaign, the 22 Challengers Endorsed Today are Running to Bring Gun Safety to Congress

Giffords #VoteCourage Campaign Now Includes Endorsements of 69 Women, 18 Veterans, and 50 Minority Candidates

July 25, 2018 — Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, is proud to announce its next endorsement slate of 22 gun safety champions for Congress. These candidates are part of a new generation of leaders that are challenging gun lobby-backed politicians as part of Giffords’ #VoteCourage campaign to elect gun reform candidates nationwide.

Statement from former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords:

“America experienced three of the deadliest mass shootings in modern history in just the past year. Over 38,000 people in our country were killed by a gun. Despite this devastating reality, the gun lobby has used its cash and influence to stifle every attempt to pass laws on Capitol Hill to make our schools, streets, and communities safer.

“The devastating inaction we’ve witnessed on Capitol Hill awoke something in the American people: a reminder of what’s possible when we can come together, raise our voices, and call for change. We found renewed energy and focus in the demands of students who called on Congress to do a simple thing: keep them safe. Their demands reverberated through streets, capitals, and rallies.

“On the campaign trail, we see a new generation of leaders ready to come to Washington DC, determined fight for solutions to a problem that’s been ignored for too long: our nation’s gun violence crisis. In communities across the country, leaders are running for office to fight for a nation where school shootings don’t feel like an everyday reality, where kids can walk the streets of their communities without running from the sound of gunfire, where every American no longer worries that the site of the next mass shooting could be their church, their movie theater, or their place of work. I’ve been particularly inspired by the number of women running for office this year. They represent the new energy our nation needs to fight for safer communities. They are joined by others – veterans, community activists, and business leaders – who are ready to be champions on this issue. We are proud to endorse this group and will continue fighting for them everyday until election day.”

With today’s announcement, Giffords is continuing its effort to make sure that when a new Congress is seated next year a majority is ready to address the issue of gun violence by supporting laws that are proven to save lives. At all levels of government, Giffords backs candidates with the courage to reject the gun lobby, who are passionate about reducing gun violence, and who commit to taking action once elected. Giffords campaigns in key elections to elevate the issue of gun safety and builds gun violence prevention majorities from state houses all the way up to the United States Senate.  

This year candidates from all different backgrounds and walks of life understand that one problem that every community faces is our gun violence crisis. Our candidates running against incumbents in Congressional, Senate, and Gubernatorial backgrounds include 32 women, 18 minority candidates, and 11 veterans. Short biographies and other information about Giffords endorsed candidates are available on the website.

Today’s Giffords Endorsements include:

  • Harley Rouda (CA-48), is a businessman who is ready and willing to stand up to special interests and tackle our nation’s gun violence epidemic. California has the strongest gun laws in the nation, and Harley knows that they work. In the last 25 years, the state’s gun death rate has been cut in half. He will fight to expand that success across the country by empowering the Centers for Disease Control to conduct research on gun violence, requiring background checks on all gun sales, and preventing dangerous people from acquiring firearms.
  • Mary Barzee Flores (FL-25), Mary Barzee Flores understands what it will take to keep our communities safe. A former judge, she is committed to fighting for proven solutions to the gun violence epidemic that has taken the lives of too many Floridians. Mary supports requiring background checks for all gun purchases and reinstating the federal semi-automatic assault weapons ban.
  • Kathleen Williams (MT-AL), Kathleen Williams, a former state legislator, is a proud gun owner, but she’s running for Congress to do what’s best for Montana families, not corporate gun manufacturers. In the legislature, Kathleen courageously stood firm against attempts to weaken gun laws in Montana,  which has one of the highest firearm death rates in the nation. In Congress, she will support closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers, stalkers, and other dangerous individuals to acquire firearms.
  • Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), A former operations officer in the CIA, Abigail Spanberger has dedicated her life to courageously serving our country. She knows that saving lives from gun violence is an American issue, not a partisan one. Abigail wants to keep our law enforcement and children safe, which is why she supports extreme risk protection orders and requiring background checks for all gun purchases.
  • Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), State Senator Jennifer Wexton has built a courageous record of supporting stronger guns laws during her four years in Richmond. Time and time again, she has stood up to the gun lobby by casting votes in favor of banning bump stocks, requiring background checks for all guns purchases, and prohibiting domestic abusers and stalkers from acquiring firearms. Jennifer is running against incumbent Barbara Comstock, one of the top recipients of NRA money in Congress, who consistently prioritizes the bottom line of corporate gun manufacturers over the safety of Virginia families.
  • Amy McGrath (KY-06), The first female Marine aviator to fly in an F-18 in combat, Amy McGrath has never been afraid to take on a challenging mission. She is running for Congress in her home state of Kentucky in order to shake up the dangerous status quo of Congress. As a veteran, Amy knows how important it is to address gun violence. She supports increased funding for Center for Disease Control research and keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals, domestic abusers, and terrorists.
  • Antonio Delgado (NY-19), Antonio Delgado embodies the American Dream. The child of General Electric workers in Schenectady, New York, his work ethic and determination earned him a Rhodes Scholarship and degree from Harvard Law School. Antonio knows the gun violence epidemic threatens that dream for too many Americans today, which is why he is committed to keeping firearms out of the hands of convicted criminals and terrorists, as well as funding gun violence research at the Center for Disease Control. He is running against John Faso, who put the gun lobby’s interests before New York law enforcement’s by voting for their top priority, concealed carry reciprocity.
  • Jessica Morse (CA-04), Jessica Morse’s work with USAID, the State Department, and the Defense Department took her all over the world, but her family has called Northern California home for generations. Jessica knows that California’s strong gun laws save lives. Her opponent, Tom McClintock, believes we should be arming our teachers. Jessica has lived in a place where everyone is armed, it’s called a war zone and she knows our kids deserve better. In Congress, she will fight to require background checks on all gun sales and keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and domestic abusers.
  • Josh Harder (CA-10), Josh Harder is a fifth-generation resident of California’s Central Valley, and his dedication to public service stems from his commitment to his community. Josh will be a fierce champion for Californians, and when in Congress, he’ll take on the gun lobby and fight for the policies that will save lives and keep California neighborhoods safe. He’s committed to stronger background checks, keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, and stopping the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda.
  • Katie Hill (CA-25), Katie Hill is the Executive Director of the largest non-profit provider of housing for the homeless in California. She has demonstrated the courage to stand up for those without a voice and is ready to serve as a leader on gun violence prevention in Congress. Katie’s opponent, Steve Knight, doesn’t believe that we can do anything about gun violence. Katie has owned guns her entire life, but knows that common-sense measures like longer waiting periods and raising the minimum age to purchase firearms will save lives.
  • Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Elissa Slotkin has served our nation for fourteen years, including three tours in Iraq with the  CIA, and has worked proudly for both Republican and Democratic presidents. Now she’s running for Congress, in her home state of Michigan, in order to bring that spirit of service to Washington. Elissa knows that Congress has failed in its duty to keep our children and families safe, and she will fight to close loopholes that allow dangerous individuals to get their hands on firearms.  
  • Kara Eastman (NE-02), Kara Eastman founded a nonprofit that has served thousands of Omaha families over the last decade. She is running for Congress to bring strong Nebraska values to Washington. Kara knows that our politicians have failed to protect American children, which is why she supports requiring background checks on all gun sales and longer waiting periods for purchasing firearms.
  • Deb Haaland (NM-01), Deb Haaland is ready to serve as a gun safety champion. Seeking to become the first Native American woman elected to Congress, she will bring a unique perspective to the table on the issue of keeping our communities safe. Deb supports closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers and criminals to get their hands on guns, as well as requiring background checks for all firearm sales.
  • Steven Horsford (NV-04), Steven Horsford has experienced the tragic consequences of gun violence first-hand, having lost his father to gun violence at age 19. Steven has represented Nevada’s 4th district in Congress before and understands how the gun lobby works to block any laws that would give comfort to the families of victims. If elected, he will never stop fighting for common-sense measures like requiring background checks on all gun sales.
  • Joe Morelle (NY-25), State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle has a proven record of fighting for gun violence prevention policies that save lives. Thanks to his determination, New York has some of the strongest gun laws in the nation. Joe knows that Second Amendment rights can be balanced with measures to keep firearms out of the hands of dangerous people, and he will be a champion for these common-sense policies in Congress.
  • Betsy Rader (OH-14), Betsy Rader has been taking on tough challenges her entire life. Born in Appalachia and raised by a single mother, she worked her way through college and has spent her career as a civil rights lawyer fighting for those without a voice.
  • Madeleine Dean (PA-05), State Representative Madeleine Dean is ready to take action on the gun violence epidemic. In the wake of Sandy Hook, Madeleine co-founded the PA SAFE Caucus to advocate for steps to reduce gun violence that don’t infringe on the Second Amendment rights of Americans. In Congress, she will fight for extreme risk protection orders, background checks for all gun sales, and a ban on bump stocks.
  • Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Mary Gay Scanlon has been a lifelong advocate for her community. An expert in education policy and an experienced pro bono attorney, Mary Gay is a passionate champion for children and families. Her involvement in the gun violence prevention movement stretches back to 2000 when she attended the Million Mom March in Washington. Mary Gay is running for Congress on a comprehensive gun violence prevention platform, which includes requiring background checks for all firearm sales, reinstating the federal ban on semi-automatic assault weapons, and restoring funding for Center for Disease Control research on gun violence.
  • Susan Wild (PA-07), As the first female solicitor of the city of Allentown, Susan Wild isn’t new to breaking down barriers or blazing trails. It’s why she wasn’t afraid to run for Congress in order to stand up to special interests and the corporate gun lobby. Susan knows that keeping our communities safe will require leaders who are ready to fight for stronger gun safety laws, such as requiring background checks on all firearm sales and closing loopholes that allow domestic abusers and stalkers to purchase and possess guns.  
  • Mary Geren (SC-03), Mary is a courageous community leader who isn’t afraid to stand up to the gun lobby and entrenched special interests to keep South Carolina families safe. The only member of her family to graduate high school, she is a community college instructor and a member of her local Chamber of Commerce. Mary supports requiring background checks for all gun sales and keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. Her opponent, Jeff Duncan, introduced a bill in Congress to gut the law that has kept silencers out of the hands of dangerous individuals for more than 80 years. We need to send Mary to Washington to keep our communities safe.
  • Joseph Kopser (TX-21), Joseph Kopser is a proven leader who will be an unwavering champion of gun violence prevention in Congress. Over his career in the U.S. Army and during his time building a business in Texas, Joseph has demonstrated the ability to bring people together to solve complex problems. Those skills will be required of him in Congress, where he will work with anyone who shares his commitment to saving lives in our country.
  • Leslie Cockburn (VA-05), Leslie Cockburn is an experienced investigative journalist who has witnessed the consequences of gun violence first-hand around the world. Having grown up in a gun-owning family, she also understands that Second Amendment rights can be balanced with common-sense policies to reduce gun violence, such as banning bump stocks and large capacity magazines. Leslie is running for Congress in order to stand up to Washington special interests, and she won’t be afraid of a fight with the gun lobby.

Background of Giffords’ 2018 Political Program

The initial step to the political program this year began in the hours after the Parkland shooting, when Giffords used #VoteCourage to get people to pledge to support candidates in November who will stand up to the gun lobby and fight for safer communities. In less than a week more than 450,000 Americans took the pledge.

Following the #VoteCourage pledge, Giffords began this ongoing, robust political program to shine a light on incumbents’ record of prioritizing the interests of the gun industry over public safety. It is encouraging voters to support candidates with the courage to stand up to the gun lobby. Along with the digital advertisements going out today and the website database, the program will include TV advertising, on-the-ground organizing and events, and a voter registration push.

Giffords launched a partnership with NextGen America and Everytown for Gun safety on a voter registration effort that is committing an initial $1.5 million to seek to get up to 50,000 Americans aged 18-19 registered for the midterm elections. In 2017, Giffords launched its candidate training program to help educate candidates who want to run on a gun safety platform and plans to expand the program in 2018.

The mass shooting at Parkland, in Florida, crystallized the country’s frustration with the lack of any action to pass gun safety laws. Gun death rates have climbed to levels not seen in decades. Currently, the country is averaging nearly 34,000 deaths from guns every year, and recent polling shows that support for stronger gun laws is at an all-time high.

Last November saw gun safety champions win commandingly across the country – from statewide races in Virginia and New Jersey to a key state senate seat in Washington state. The elections sparked what has become known as the suburban rebellion in the districts that will matter to who will have control of Congress next year.

A recent public opinion survey released by Giffords also shows that gun safety is a winning issue in districts key to determining control of the House of Representatives. The poll looked into 38 battleground districts that are largely Republican-held. The results proved that embracing gun safety could be the difference-maker for Democrats in key swing districts, particularly because support for stronger gun laws remains high and the National Rifle Association’s favorability is on a downward trend.