On the eve of Veteran’s Day weekend, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s gun control advocacy group announced a new, spin-off wing of their organization: Veterans for Responsible Solutions.
Joined by major former military brass, Mark Kelly, Gifford’s husband, himself a retired Navy captain and astronaut, argued that veterans have a unique perspective in the gun debate.
“I’ve been shot at,” Kelly told reporters on a call to promote the group on Friday.
The group of veterans repeatedly stated that they are not anti-gun. Kelly hunts. He and Giffords have guns in their home. Many of the veterans said they too own a gun.
“Obviously, I’m a strong proponent of arms in the right in the correct manner,” former Air Force Major Mike Almy said. “All the men in my family had served in some capacity.”
Retired Navy Rear Admiral James Barnett agreed. “We’re for gun rights. Nobody is trying to affect anybody’s second amendment rights,” he said.
Instead the group of veterans will join Giffords and Kelly in their fight for “commonsense” changes in gun-ownership regulations, including expanded background checks and limiting of high-capacity magazines. Some members will lobby members of Congress; others will write op-eds, Kelly said. And some in the group are simply lending their high-profile names.
So far this year, new gun control measures have largely stalled on Capitol Hill. In April, a bill requiring universal background checks failed to gain the necessary support to move to a vote in the Senate.
The veterans did applaud Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s push for more affordable mental health coverage. Sebelius announced a new rule Friday that requires insurers to offer co-pays and treatments for mental health care that are comparable with other physical health care costs. The team of veterans echoed concerns from other gun control advocates that not enough attention has been paid to the role of mental health in the issue of gun violence.
“When the military gave me a gun, I was vetted, I was trained,” retired Coast Guard Captain Gail Kulisch said. “They asked, ‘Do I have the judgment?’”
The new group includes more than 100 former members of the military, from all branches and representing a wide-range of ranks and expertise. The organization released the full list of initial military members on their website.