TUCSON — Tuesday was not just a day for Tucson to remember the victims of the deadly shooting that severely injured Representative Gabrielle Giffords. It was also a day when residents could see firsthand the nation’s gun debate play out in a busy parking lot outside a city police station.
On one side was a councilman, who supports gun control, leading an effort to give $50 grocery store gift cards to anyone who turned in their guns to police. And on the other was an event organized by a state senator that turned into an open, unregulated, and legal marketplace for firearms.
“We have a fundamental hole in the private sales of guns. You can walk up right in front of a cop and buy a gun, no background check, nothing,” said Councilman Steve Kozachik. “How much more flawed can the system be?”
The people who bought guns would not comment.
The dueling gun buy-back programs — and the annual ringing of bells to remember the six dead and 13 injured, including Giffords — came as the former congresswoman and her husband announced that they are forming a political action committee aimed at curbing gun violence.
Giffords and Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, wrote in an op-ed published in USA Today that their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative will raise money to support greater gun control efforts and take on the powerful gun lobby.
“Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources,” the couple wrote, and they will “raise funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby.”
There was already concern among gun control advocates that they are losing the momentum they hoped to have after the Newtown, Conn., shooting left 20 children and six adults dead. Congress was already occupied with budget concerns.
Giffords’s announcement brought back memories from the 1980s when Jim and Sarah Brady formed the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Brady, President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, was wounded in the 1981 presidential assassination attempt by a mentally ill gunman.
Brady’s organization has been among the most vocal champions of gun control since then, but it remains to be seen whether Giffords’s group can better compete against the National Rifle Association.