PATERSON, NJ- When Congresswoman Gabby Giffords returned to the floor of the House of Representatives less than seven months after being critically injured by a gunshot to the head her colleagues in Congress welcomed her with a standing ovation.
That ovation, however, did nothing to usher in any new "meaningful" gun control legislation.
Just over a year after that, twenty children and six adults would lose their lives in a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.
While Congress again failed to act in a way she believed would stem the violence, Giffords could stay silent no longer, and, with her husband Mark Kelly by her side, she launched Americans for Responsible Solutions.
Now known as GIFFORDS, the couple, in an exclusive sit down with TAPinto, brought the organization’s message of advocacy to get guns out of the hands of “felons, abusers, potential terrorists, and the mentally ill” to Paterson Thursday.
Kelly, a former NASA astronaut and West Orange native, rattles off statistics about gun violence effortlessly, yet believes that it is a “problem that has a solution.”
While that solution, as Kelly states, can be respectful of the Second Amendment, it does, as far as New Jersey is concerned, start with electing Phil Murphy as Governor on Tuesday.
Murphy, is the Democratic candidate seeking election on November 7.
Explaining that 80 percent of guns used in crimes in the state come from somewhere else, Kelly believes that New Jersey can “lead the way,” but not if Murphy’s Republican opponent, Kim Guadagno, is allowed the chance to continue Chris Christie’s legacy of vetoing gun reform bills passed by the Democrat controlled New Jersey Legislature.
“Guadagno’s positions are similar to Christie’s,” Kelly said. “Gabby and I don’t believe New Jersey needs a rubber stamp. It needs a governor, like Phil Murphy, that believes that laws matter.”
Earlier this year Guadagno received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association (NRA) as well as an "A" from the organization which, according to their website, defines her as a "solidly pro-gun candidate."
Joining Giffords and Kelly in Paterson today was former Assembly Speaker, and Murphy running mate, Sheila Oliver. Calling bills that would limit gun purchases in the state to one a month, regulate the size of magazines, and take additional steps to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill “no brainers,” Oliver could hardly hide her contempt at Christie’s regular use of the veto pen.
Despite his past record, Oliver expressed confidence that in the wake of last month’s mass shooting that claimed 58 lives in Las Vegas even Christie would be moved to to take action.
As his “last act” Oliver hopes that Christie will sign legislation preventing the use of bump stocks, a modification that allows guns to fire more rapidly. “Why should people be allowed to own assault weapons?” Oliver asked to an approving Giffords.
Citing statistics of his own, Passaic County Sheriff Richard Berdnik revealed that of 739 inmates housed in the facility adjacent to where today’s meeting took place, 136, or nearly twenty percent, were charged with possession of a firearm. Berdnik, a career law enforcement officer, and the father of a police officer, said that with the election of Murphy and Oliver he is confident that “New Jersey will have two leaders who will make sure that appropriate laws and resources are in place to address gun violence.”
Asked at the end of the sit down what message she had for her former House colleagues on gun control Giffords responded without missing a beat, “vote.” Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, she explained, lawmakers need to act.