Press Release

Giffords Rolls Out Endorsement of California Congressional Candidates Dedicated to Progress on Gun Safety

California leaders committed to building on the 116th Congress’s gun safety wins get Giffords backing 

Washington, DC Giffords, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, announced endorsements for seven California candidates for Congress committed to gun safety. The slate, led by the trailblazing efforts of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chairman Mike Thompson, all know the urgent need to address America’s gun violence epidemic. Other candidates included in today’s endorsements either defeated NRA-backed politicians in 2018 or are running in districts which will be critical for maintaining a gun safety majority in the House. The candidates have pledged to continue the efforts of the 116th Congress, which included passing landmark legislation like H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, the first significant gun reform bill to get congressional approval in decades. 

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

“No state has done more to fight the gun violence crisis than California. At the local, state, and federal levels, gun safety champions have fearlessly stood up to the gun lobby and sought to pass solutions to end the crisis. 

“Leaders like Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Mike Thompson have what it takes to bring California’s lifesaving victories to Washington DC. The NRA’s campaign cash was no match for their resolve to bring change to Congress. When Americans rose up and demanded leaders who understood that action on the gun violence crisis couldn’t wait—candidates in California responded. They are ready to do so again and that’s why we are proud to endorse these California leaders.”  

The 116th Congress took monumental steps to advance lifesaving gun violence prevention legislation including H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, one of the first pieces of legislation introduced in 2019, which passed through the full House just weeks after it was introduced. Congress similarly appropriated $25 million in gun violence research funding, and the House held more than a dozen hearings with gun violence as the main focus. 

“Our first responsibility as elected officials is to protect and defend the American people. Under my leadership, we have passed strong, commonsense bipartisan legislation to save lives and protect our communities by strengthening background checks, which the public overwhelmingly supports,” said Speaker Pelosi. “It is an honor to receive the support of Giffords as we fight together to end the atrocious gun violence epidemic.” 

“For more than seven years, we have been fighting to get gun violence prevention legislation signed into law and my friend Gabby Giffords and her organization have been a critical partner in that fight,” said Congressman Thompson. “As we mark nearly a year since the passage of H.R. 8, my bipartisan bill to expand background checks, I am deeply humbled to receive the endorsement of Giffords in my re-election campaign so we can continue our work to keep our communities safe from gun violence.”

“California has shown the nation that we can take action to make our communities safer,” said Peter Ambler, Giffords Executive Director. “These leaders embody courage and the state’s approach to this national crisis. They are not afraid to take on the NRA’s corruption and fight for progress. We need them more than ever to make the breakthroughs on gun safety the country demands.”  

Today’s Giffords Endorsements include:

  • Christy Smith (CA-25): After growing up in Santa Clarita and staying close by for college, Christy Smith worked at the US Department of Education before returning home to sit on the board of the Newhall School District. Since 2018, she has represented Simi Valley, San Fernando Valley, and Santa Clarita Valley in the California State Assembly, where she has worked closely with her constituents and with law enforcement to create safer communities. This year, Assemblywoman Smith is taking the national stage as a congressional candidate in California’s 25th District. With her experience in education policy and as a mother, she understands the anxiety that parents across the country face when they send their children to school every day, as well as the traumatizing effect that active shooter drills have on students. In November 2019, the ever-present threat of a school shooting turned into a terrifying reality for her constituents at Saugus High School, once again highlighting the necessity of electing leaders to Congress who will pass lifesaving legislation. Assemblywoman Smith is ready to take on that role to make sure that tragedies like this one never happen again.
  • Nancy Pelosi (CA-12): Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been a stalwart champion for gun violence prevention over the course of her career in Congress. She led successful efforts to block the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda during the first two years of the Trump administration, and since last January has presided over the House’s passage of landmark gun safety legislation and historic investments in gun violence research. From the start of the 116th Congress, Speaker Pelosi made gun violence prevention a top priority. She assigned the Bipartisan Background Checks Act a low bill number—H.R. 8—not only to demonstrate its importance, but also to mark its introduction on the 8th anniversary of the Tucson shooting that killed six and wounded 14, including Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. After passing H.R. 8 through the House by 50 votes last February, Speaker Pelosi has tirelessly advocated for Mitch McConnell and the Senate to take up that bill and other bipartisan House-approved gun safety measures. She wears an orange bracelet made with a bullet to remind herself of the victims of gun violence and to send the message that she will not stop fighting until America has universal background checks.
  • Mike Thompson (CA-05): Congressman Mike Thompson represents California’s Fifth District and has been chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, the principal group of lawmakers working on solutions to gun violence in the House, since its formation after the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012. He is an Army veteran who led a platoon with the 173rd Airborne Brigade and received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in the Vietnam War. He served in the California State Senate prior to being elected to Congress in 1998. Congressman Thompson is a leading champion of gun violence prevention on Capitol Hill. As an experienced legislator, a veteran, and an avid sportsman, Congressman Thompson brings an indispensable perspective to his role as leader of those efforts. His bill, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, introduced with four Democrat and five Republican sponsors in January 2019, was the first major piece of gun violence prevention legislation to pass the House in over two decades.
  • Josh Harder (CA-10): Congressman Harder represents his hometown of Turlock, as well as Modesto and other parts of the Central Valley in California’s 10th District. He worked his way through Stanford, attended Harvard Business School, and spent several years in venture capital before returning home to teach classes at Modesto Junior College. In 2018, Harder flipped what had been a long time Republican-held seat occupied by an A-rated NRA politician who refused to work across the aisle on commonsense solutions to America’s gun violence crisis. Congressman Harder understands that California has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country because it has among the strongest gun laws in the country. In 2019, he helped pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act in the House, which would help prevent criminals and other dangerous people from getting their hands on guns by closing the private sale loophole.
  • TJ Cox (CA-21): Congressman TJ Cox represents California’s 21st District, spanning several counties in the San Joaquin Valley. Before he was elected in 2018, Cox was an entrepreneur who started two businesses and managed a community development organization that incentivized public-private partnerships. In these roles, Cox learned how to balance stakeholders’ interests to produce results that were not only financially successful, but also socially responsible and beneficial to the surrounding communities. In Congress, Representative Cox continues to draw on his experience as a businessman and developer by staying attuned to all of the needs of the diverse district he serves. No matter how greatly their views diverge on other issues, gun violence remains a persistent and universal concern among his constituents. Through his support of expanding background checks and closing the loophole that allows domestic abusers to access firearms, Congressman Cox has been an unwavering voiceand votein the fight for gun safety.
  • Harley Rouda (CA-48): Harley Rouda ran for Congress in California’s 48th District after leaving the Republican party, driven to do so by the clear ideological divide between the two parties on significant issues like gun safety. During his 2018 campaign, he discussed the importance of gun safety with Giffords co-founders Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly and connected with many moderate voters in his district who were discouraged by the lack of action in Congress. During his time in office, Congressman Rouda has been a champion for safer and more responsible gun ownership. He voted to pass the Bipartisan Background Checks Act to expand background checks and co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which would close the boyfriend loophole and keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. When Congressman Rouda won in 2018, his victory was part of the blue wave in southern California that year, a sign of a monumental shift in the conversation around gun safety. His reelection in 2020 will give him the perfect opportunity to continue driving that conversation forward.
  • Mike Levin (CA-49): Prior to this session of Congress, California’s 49th District was represented by an incumbent with an A rating from the NRA who chose not to run for reelection because he knew voters wanted a gun safety champion in his seat. In 2018, Mike Levin rose to the challenge, campaigning on a platform of passing universal background checks and increasing funding for gun violence research. He joined forces with Giffords co-founders Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly to underscore the urgency of the issue. Since taking office, Congressman Mike Levin has consistently acted on his promises. In just one term, he has co-sponsored or introduced legislation to enforce universal background checks, broaden extreme risk protection orders, regulate ghost guns, ban assault weapons, and incentivize the safe storage of guns. With these policy proposals, Congressman Levin has built bipartisan coalitions and helped demonstrate the widespread popularity of gun safety. His work these last two years represents only the beginning of what he hopes to accomplish on this issue.

About Recent Giffords 2020 Political Efforts:

At every step in the legislative process, this slate of endorsed candidates approached gun safety legislation with the seriousness and urgency needed to solve our country’s gun violence epidemic. In contrast, their counterparts in the Senate have stalled and obstructed any and all gun safety bills sent to them by the House. That’s why Giffords invested nearly $750,000 in ads calling out Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) for failing to support H.R. 8 last year. 

Giffords is also leading the effort to make this the year the country elects a #GunSafetyPresident. We launched a video campaign this past fall that allowed the American people to hear directly from leading Democratic candidates for president about gun violence—the issue keeping people up at night and dominating discussion at kitchen tables across the country. They also joined with March For Our Lives to host a 2020 gun safety forum in Las Vegas in October.  

Recently released polling showed that the issue of gun safety is becoming a major factor for voters, and one that is critical to winning elections in these areas of the country. Fifty-nine percent of suburban women in the swing states of Colorado, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas support stronger gun laws and say this issue is “very important” to their vote. An even larger group (64%) says that they would never vote for a candidate who didn’t support “requiring background checks on all gun sales,” outranking 13 other social and economic policy positions as the top voting determinant. Responses like these underscore that suburban women increasingly want a leader committed to gun safety.