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PAC supporting gun background checks backs Cortez Masto

A gun violence prevention PAC founded by a former congresswoman who survived being shot in the head has endorsed Catherine Cortez Masto in the U.S. Senate race.

Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, started by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., announced the endorsement on Tuesday. Cortez Masto, a Nevada Democratic candidate, faces U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., in the race for the open U.S. Senate seat of outgoing Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

The group, also called ARS PAC, is endorsing candidates, including Cortez Masto, as part of its push to mobilize voters in the 2016 to vote based on policies aimed at curbing gun violence, including universal background checks.

Giffords gained fame after being shot in January 2011 at a congressional event in her Tucson-area district. She left office in 2012, starting her organization the following year.

“As Nevada’s attorney general, Catherine Cortez Masto was a tireless voice for protecting families and better enforcing our laws, and we know she is the best person in this race to fight for the responsible steps we need to help keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, prevent gun tragedies, and make Nevada families safer,” Giffords said in a joint statement with her husband and co-founder, retired astronaut Mark Kelly.

Giffords was on the national stage when she spoke at the Democratic national convention in July. There, she said that while speaking remains difficult, she wants to say two words in January: “Madam President.”

Her organization has endorsed candidates from both parties, including GOP Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

“I’m honored to have the support of Congresswoman Giffords, Captain Kelly, and their organization in my candidacy to be Nevada’s next Senator,” Cortez Masto said in a statement. “They are committed to reducing gun violence and keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people by enacting common-sense solutions that the majority of Nevadans support. Unfortunately, my opponent, Congressman Heck, is opposed to reasonable, potentially life-saving reforms like universal background checks.”

A Heck campaign spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment on the endorsement and Heck’s stance on universal background checks.

On Heck’s campaign website, Heck doesn’t specifically mention universal background checks. He states he supports both the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and “common-sense steps” to reduce gun violence. He says those include fully funding the existing system used for national criminal background checks, pursuing “straw-man buyers” who help convicts obtain guns, and examining the “root causes of gun violence,” including the mental health system.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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