NATIONAL TOUR: Capt. Mark Kelly Hits the Campaign Trail with Military Veteran Candidates to Discuss Gun Violence in America

Six-stop tour features Capt. Mark Kelly, VoteVets, and community leaders, calling attention to the gun violence crisis. In 2016 alone 155,000 people were shot, almost 39,000 fatally.

Military veteran candidates are part of Giffords #VoteCourage campaign to elect gun safety champions to office with a mandate to take action. 

August 20, 2018 — Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, in partnership with VoteVets, announced a tour to support military veteran candidates running for office who are committed to taking action address gun violence. In a series of events with the candidates, Captain Kelly, members from VoteVets, students, advocates and voters will gather to discuss the ways gun violence is impacting their community, the lack of Congressional action to address the nation’s growing gun violence epidemic, and what must be done to save lives. In 2016 alone, 155,000 people were shot, almost 39,000 fatally.

Members of our military take up arms to keep America secure and strong, and to protect and defend the Constitution. Veterans are also some of our nation’s foremost experts on guns. They know what guns can do in the hands of trained, responsible people, and how they can be used in the hands of those who want to do us harm. They recognize the scale of America’s gun violence crisis is unacceptable and that more must be done to prevent crisis and save lives.

Giffords is proud to endorse and support veterans running for office who are part of a new generation of leaders challenging gun-lobby backed politicians. The Giffords & VoteVets Veterans Tour is part of Giffords larger #VoteCourage campaign to elect gun reform candidates nationwide.

Statement from Captain Mark Kelly, 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 in 2016. Congress has met this crisis with a mix of silence and attempts to push gun lobby backed bills to weaken our laws.

“But the American people have had enough. They came together to draw attention to this inaction and support a new generation of leaders that are committed to addressing the problem. This year, candidates across the country have stood up to answer this call and show courage. Many of these individuals running for office are working to continue careers in public service they began as members of the military.

“They made a commitment while serving to protect the rights and freedoms of Americans while keeping our citizens safe. This group of veterans understands that we have solutions that could be voted on today that could help reduce the toll – on families, on police officers, on communities – that gun violence inflicts. They are ready to follow through as public servants and fight for these laws that will save lives.”

Statement from Dan Helmer, Vice Chair of VoteVets:

“Military veterans know that weapons of war have no place in our schools, in our places of worship, at concerts, at night clubs and in our communities.  Too many in Congress are afraid to take on the NRA and pass meaningful legislation supported by the overwhelming majority of Americans to reduce gun violence. The veteran candidates we are meeting with on this tour have already answered the call of duty once and bravely stood up to defend and serve this nation. They have the courage to stand up to the NRA and fight for legislation to protect our communities from the epidemic of gun violence.  We are proud to partner with Captain Kelly and Giffords on this tour.”

The tour will include stops with the following veterans running for office:

  • Mikie Sherrill (NJ-11) — September 7As a Naval Academy graduate, Navy Pilot, and former federal prosecutor, Mikie knows what it means to stand up for the safety of American families. Mikie’s experience has given her a unique perspective on what it takes to reduce crime and combat gun violence, and she would bring that experience to Washington and to the fight for safer gun laws. In Congress, Mikie will fight for background checks on all gun sales, a federal assault weapons ban, and policies that help keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.

  • Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06) — September 7: As an Air Force veteran, educator, and business leader, Chrissy Houlahan knows what leadership looks like. Gun violence prevention is among the issues closest to Chrissy, as a former teacher and relative of a first responder to the tragic Sandy Hook massacre. She supports closing the gun show loophole, funding gun violence prevention research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, banning assault weapons, and passing universal criminal background checks.

  • Conor Lamb (PA-18) — September 8: Congressman Conor Lamb is a former U.S. Marine Corps Captain and federal prosecutor. Though he has only served in Congress since April 2018, Congressman Lamb has already supported legislation to expand background checks.

  • Amy McGrath (KY-06) — September 9: 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.

  • Jason Crow (CO-06) — September 20: Jason Crow is a veteran who served in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and the 75th Ranger Regiment. Through his experience as a combat veteran, Jason knows the devastation that guns in dangerous hands can cause and has called on Congress take up and pass commonsense laws to reduce gunviolence, and block dangerous legislation like the deregulation of silencers. Jason has the courage to stand up to special interests in Washington and has pledged not only to never take a dime from the gun lobby, but to refuse all Corporate PAC contributions.

  • Gil Cisneros (CA-39) — September 23: A former US Naval Officer, Gil Cisneros believes American families deserve to feel safe in their communities. Gil has been an outspoken advocate for safer gun laws, and has pledged not only to support gun safety in Congress, but to be a true champion who will fight to make change happen.

  • Elaine Luria (VA-02) — September 29/30: After spending 20 years in Naval uniform, Elaine Luria is acutely aware of the harm weapons of war can cause on the streets of America. Elaine has made gun violence prevention a top priority in her race for the Virginia 2nd congressional district. She supports universal background checks on all gun sales, prohibiting the sale of assault weapons, and repealing the Dickey Amendment so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can study gun violence.

With this tour, Giffords is continuing its effort to make sure that when the new Congress is seated next year, a majority of elected leaders are ready to take action to address 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.

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.

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