HARTFORD, Conn. — A bid from former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband to curb gun violence was cheered Tuesday in Newtown, where last month's massacre at an elementary school has prompted some to mobilize for stronger gun control.
The couple, which met with the victims’ families on a visit last week to Newtown, launched a new political action committee on gun violence on the second anniversary of a shooting in Arizona that killed six people and left Giffords critically injured.
Monte Frank, a father and an attorney who lives in the Sandy Hook section of Newtown, said he is eager to help Giffords any way he can. He is organizing a team of 26 riders to bicycle from Sandy Hook to Washington, possibly in March, to keep attention on the issue of gun control.
“I would have thought that Congress would have done something when one of their own was the victim of unnecessary gun violence,” Frank said. “Now that she has come this far with her rehabilitation that she is able to get out in front of the issue, I think it's awesome.”
A gunman shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 and killed 20 young children and six educators before committing suicide as police arrived. Police have not offered a possible motive for the rampage.
Newtown Selectman Jim Gaston was among the officials who met privately with Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, during their visit Friday to Newtown. He said many in town were touched that the couple would share their experiences and predicted their gun-control efforts would find plenty of allies in Newtown.
“I think she'll find support from the vast majority of my fellow Newtowners,” Gaston said.
Gaston said he owns rifles himself, and he enjoys shooting them, but there is no reason for people outside the armed forces or law enforcement to have semi-automatic weapons.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said that he welcomed the announcement from Giffords and that he senses a change in the political landscape, with some of his colleagues in Congress changing their views on the need for more measures to prevent gun violence.
Blumenthal said Tuesday that he plans to introduce federal legislation that would require instant background checks for purchasers of ammunition — an effort he describes as “keeping faith with the people of Newtown and across Connecticut.”
“People who were directly affected by this horrific tragedy and have said to me again and again and again, ‘Please do something, please do something about gun violence, please do something about the guns,’” Blumenthal said.
Connecticut Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, a Democrat, commended Giffords and Kelly for “their remarkable strength and leadership on this issue.”
“Their visit to Newtown last week was an inspiration for the families they met and I am confident their new effort will help our nation reach reasonable reforms that balance the rights of gun owners with the need to protect the public from gun violence,” Wyman said.
A grassroots group called Newtown United has been meeting to discuss issues including gun control. A spokesman for the group declined to comment Tuesday on Giffords’ efforts.