Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, don’t want to change Nevada’s opinion on gun control. Most Nevadans already agree with them, according to a poll they commissioned.
But they do want to change the mind of U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who in April voted against expanding background checks for gun buyers at gun shows and on the Internet.
Giffords and Kelly were in Las Vegas Monday for their first stop in a seven-state tour this week to gather support for what they call “common-sense” gun safety laws.
“We’re meeting with folks who really believe we need to take some concrete steps to reduce gun violence,” Kelly said.
Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was shot in the head in a January 2011 mass shooting in Tucson. She resigned from Congress last year. After other mass shootings, including at an Aurora, Colo. theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, the couple became activists.
According to a poll commissioned by their political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, when Nevadans were asked whether they favor or oppose requiring background checks on all gun sales including those sold on the internet and at gun shows, more than 80 percent said they either strongly favor or somewhat favor such requirements.
The findings are from a phone survey of 600 registered voters in Nevada between May 29 and June 2. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Kelly, a U.S. Navy Captain and Gulf War veteran, met with the Review-Journal’s editorial board Monday. He said Heller won’t discuss the poll.
Kelly said Heller likely doesn’t want to anger the National Rifle Association, which spent nearly $20 million in last November’s elections.
“That’s a hard thing to calculate. I mean, how do you balance what your constituents want with how much money is going to be spent against you in your next election?” he said.
Kelly said their PAC raised $11 million and hopes to raise $20 million by the 2014 election cycle. Their goal is to level the playing field with the NRA.
A Heller representative declined to address the allegations and said the senator’s position hasn’t changed.
“I believe that this legislation could lead to the creation of a national gun registry and puts additional burdens on law-abiding citizens. For these reasons, I cannot vote for this legislation,” Heller said in April.
In addition to meeting with the Review-Journal, Kelly and Giffords visited the Clark County Shooting Complex and met with local police and minority group officials.
Their Las Vegas visit was not met with universal welcome.
“It is unfortunate that Kelly, Giffords and the other speakers would campaign at a public facility where taxpayers lawfully practice with their firearms,” said Don Turner, President of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, in a statement. “Their attacks on the 2nd Amendment would negatively affect all of the law-abiding Nevadans who legally use their firearms at facilities like CCSC around the country.”
Kelly said part of their mission is to speak to voters who believe any gun control is a step toward gun confiscation.
“The NRA always talks about the slippery slope. When has the slope been slippery in Washington? It’s impossible to get anything done. It’s made of Velcro,” he said.
He said closing loopholes for background checks are a realistic, obvious way to decrease gun violence. Since 1999, 1.9 million people failed a background check at a licensed gun dealer. How many criminals were savvy enough to make their purchase at a gun show or online?
“I think a lot of them,” he said. “But we don’t have numbers because when we don’t do a background check, you don’t have to leave a name.”
Last month, Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill that would have required universal background checks for firearm purchases in Nevada.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283. Follow @blasky on Twitter.