Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly, to kick off anti-gun tour in Orlando

Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona and her husband former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly plan to kick off a 13-state tour in Orlando next week to push for gun law reforms.

Giffords, critically injured and nearly killed in a 2011 shooting rampage in Tuscon, Ariz., and Kelly, a retired Navy captain who was commander of the Space Shuttle Endeavor’s final mission later that year, will be leading the kick-off rally of their “2016 Vocal Majority Tour” at Orlando’s Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, Tuesday at 11 a.m.

The tour is sponsored by their gun reform political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC, and Tuesday’s appearance also is sponsored by Equality Florida and the Human Rights Campaign. Their bus tour is set to run 40 days and visit cities in 13 states.

In addition to Giffords, a Democrat, and Kelly, the Orlando rally will feature Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and Equality Florida’s Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is a Democrat running for the Florida House of Representatives in the Orlando-based House District 49.

The June 12 massacre at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse, where madman Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others, made Orlando an obvious choice to kick off the tour. But Smith said the gun violence at issue involves far more than Pulse.

“Well, you know, Orlando has become a city plagued with gun violence,” he said. “It is not just because of the recent tragedy at Pulse, but because gun violence is on the rise in our beautiful city. Folks are stepping up and combining their voices demanding change.”

Through their organization, Giffords and Kelly advocate universal background checks for gun purchases; finding ways to prevent domestic abusers from purchasing guns; stronger laws against gun trafficking and “straw man” buyers of guns; strengthening the national instant background check system; and dedicated funding for research into gun violence.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


  • Bill Brandon

    September 26, 2016 at 4:00 pm

    How many people are they going to pay to show up?

  • Bambi Buchowski

    September 27, 2016 at 11:38 am

    I listened to Kelly this morning on NPR. He claims to be logic/fact based, so I’d like to see him address the following fact-based questions:

    1) Kelly touted the need for increased background checks on firearms sales. About 75,000 such background checks result in denials each year. Of those, only about two to three dozen are prosecuted.

    Each purchase from a licensed firearms dealer requires completion of a Form 4473. That form includes an attestation by the buyer that they are not a prohibited buyer and warns that lying is a prosecutable felony. The Form 4473 includes Name, Address, Date of Birth, a physical description (race, height, weight) and a requirement for corroborating government-issued identification. When a criminal fills out a Form 4473, it is in effect a signed confession, complete with information on where to go to arrest the individual. Prosecution should be as easy as picking the individual up, taking him and the signed form to court and obtaining a conviction. Inexplicably, less than 0.05% of those who are denied are actually prosecuted.

    Kelly claimed that up to “40%” of gun sales are without background check. Suppose this is true, and that enforcing background checks on those sales were to net an additional 50,000 criminal confessions on Forms 4473.

    Question 1: Given that the current background check laws, even with a signed confession in the hands of law enforcement are enforced less than 0.05% of the time resulting in fewer than 3 dozen criminal prosecutions, how would MORE background checks change anything beyond adding less than two dozen prosecutions per year?

    I submit that the problem is NOT that we need more background check laws, but rather that the current administration is failing in its duty to enforce existing law and that Kelly’s efforts would be better spent trying to force more responsible behavior by the current administration. (As an aside, this administration appears to be pro-criminal in many regards – not only failing to prosecute those who attempt to buy guns illegally, but even releasing tens of thousands of criminal aliens WHO HAVE BEEN CONVICTED OF VIOLENT CRIMES back into society, GRANTING CITIZENSHIP TO CRIMINALS AWAITING DEPORTATION FOR CRIMINAL ACTIVITY and even SMUGGLING MORE THAN 2000 ASSAULT WEAPONS TO MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS. If any of this sounds incredible, research it yourself.)

    2) Research by Gary Kleck of the Florida State University College of Criminology has determined that each year between 2.5 and 4 million crimes are prevented by armed citizens. In the vast majority of those cases (98%-99%), no shot is fired. Of those where a shot is fired, about half the time someone is hit. However, comparing armed citizens responding to threats to response by police, police are:

    – Three times more likely to MISS their target, and,
    – Six times more likely to kill the WRONG person at the scene of a crime.

    Concealed carry permit holders as a group are conspicuously MORE law-abiding than the politicians who enact laws or the police who enforce them. Recent research indicates that police are 6 to 23 times more likely to commit crimes than concealed carry permit holders.

    Florida residents have more than 1.8 MILLION concealed carry permits. Statistically, this works out to be about 11.2% of the adult population age 21 or older.

    Mark, you’ve elected to start your bus tour in the city where the Pulse Night Club shootings occurred. Assuming there were 300 people in the Pulse Night Club at the time of the attack, one would expect about 33 of them to have had concealed carry permits. If only 1 in 5 had actually been carrying that night, the killer would have faced 6 people shooting back at him. As we know from other instances where similarly armed killers (.223 caliber semiautomatics) were engaged (Klackamas Mall, New Life Church), armed resistance makes a difference. In both of the cases cited, the killer was engaged by an armed citizen. In the first case the killer fled into a stairwell and killed himself. In the second case the attacker was eliminated by the armed citizen. In each case, two people were killed before the attackers were engaged. Contrast this with the Pulse killings where the attacker had three hours to murder people unopposed. For three hours, the killer was free to terrorize and murder victims. For three hours they bled out on the floor. We still do not know how many victims were killed by police on making entry to the club. I’ve read there were 11 police who fired their weapons. In listening to the audio of their entry to the club, I would estimate over 200 rounds were fired. How many hit the killer? How many hit innocent people?

    Unfortunately, our current gun control laws prohibit concealed carry permit holders from carrying firearms in night clubs. The Pulse victims were disarmed and rendered as helpless sheep to slaughter by the legislature acting on the recommendations of gun control groups much like your own.

    Question #2: Given that, with the exception of the shooting that involved your wife, virtually every other mass shooting has taken place in a location where Americans were stripped of their right to carry firearms for self-defense (Virginia Tech, Luby’s in Killeen, The Cinemark Massacre in Aurora, The Washington Naval Yard, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, etc.) and the given the facts that concealed carry permit holders are less likely to commit crimes than legislators or police, that they are more likely to hit their targets than are the police and much less likely to shoot the WRONG person – would you support new laws that allow concealed carry permit holders to carry their firearms everywhere, including into schools, churches, theaters and on military bases?

    3) The primary reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment was to secure the pre-existing right of the People to self-defense, primarily against their own government. Having just fought a war against the world’s major superpower (a war that began when that government attempted arms confiscation at Concord and Lexington), the Founders were keenly aware of the danger of oppressive government. It was their intent that the People should always have the (fire)power to overthrow their own government.

    Many gun owners think of background checks as backdoor registration schemes. That is, when the government receives information that a person is buying a gun, complete with identifying information, there appears to be no impediment to the government recording that information to build a National firearms owner database. Historically, this has been prelude to disaster as such lists are usually then used to confiscate arms – generally followed by imposition of a tyrannical regime (Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Mao’s China, etc.) Under such regimes, more than 170,000,000 people were slaughtered BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENTS in the 20th Century alone. That works out to be over 4657 people PER DAY, killed by their own governments after first being disarmed through gun registration/licensing/confiscation. Clearly, this figure dwarfs any consideration of the number of people killed by other criminal use of firearms and the primary focus on any background check system must be to ensure that no firearm ownership data is retained by the government.

    Some would naively assert that it “can’t happen here” – but we have already seen the beginning of this sort of operation cropping up in California, where gun owners were initially told to “register” their SKS rifles and assured they would be allowed to keep them. Later the state changed the rule and now has a list of people who own SKS rifles and is demanding that they either turn them in or otherwise dispossess themselves of the rifles. Confiscation has not yet begun – and it is perhaps due to the reality that there are gun owners who understand history and would violently oppose any overt confiscation attempt (as intended by the Founding Fathers) that such has not yet gone forward. And it’s not as if no legislators are in favor of gun confiscation. Senator Feinstein infamously said that if she could confiscate ALL firearms, she would.

    Question 3: Understanding that preventing the government from forming a gun-owners database is of paramount importance to gun owners, and recognizing the immense potential consequences for abuse of such a registry, would you support a mandatory death penalty sentence for any government employee (to include representatives, senators and the president), who knowingly authorizes or works on establishing or operating a firearms owners database and agree that such prohibition must be enacted prior to any expansion of background check laws?

    I look forward to your “fact-based” answers.

Comments are closed.


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