WASHINGTON–Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in a rare public speech Wednesday, backed “common sense” gun control legislation to keep firearms away from domestic abusers.
“Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women,” Giffords said, at an event sponsored by the Center for American Progress. “Criminals with guns, stalkers with guns, abusers with guns that makes gun violence a women’s issue. For our mothers, for our families, for me and you, women can lead the way.”
Speaking slowly, standing next to her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly, she said, “Together we can change laws, together we can win elections. Please join your voice with mine.”
The crowd erupted in applause, giving her a standing ovation before she began speaking and again right after. She will also throw out the first pitch this evening at the Congressional Women’s Softball game.
Kelly introduced Giffords and said, “Gabby and I are really strong believers in the Second Amendment.”
“When you believe in something, you tend to cherish it,” Kelly said. “And cherishing your rights means also that you need to exercise them with a lot of responsibility. Now Gabby and I are both responsible gun owners, and the vast majority of Americans who own guns are also responsible gun owners. And part of that commitment to responsibility is making sure that it is reflected in our laws.”
In early 2011, Giffords was shot and six others were killed in a massacre outside of a Tucson, Ariz., grocery store where she was meeting with constituents. Last year, she along with Kelly announced the creation of Americans for Responsible Solutions, to push for gun control on both the state and federal levels. The group has also back like minded candidates ahead of the November midterm elections.
The event Wednesday was a panel discussion examining policy solutions to protect women from gun violence at the hands of abusers, specifically legislation proposed by Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota who was on the panel. The bill would add dating partners and convicted stalkers to the list of domestic abusers who cannot legally buy a gun.
Kelly who said his wife “does not fear or even acknowledge failure” said the legislation will “absolutely save lives, especially the lives of women.”
Legislation that would have strengthened background checks for firearm purchases failed to pass the Senate last year, something Klobuchar said today was a “major tragedy” and her “saddest day” in the Senate.
When asked if it was possible for that same legislation to be brought up again, Klobuchar said yes, but added she is working to find Republican support for this new legislation.
“Every single day we have victims of domestic violence and stalking that then become the victims of shooting and so I think it is out there and it is strong,” she said, referring to support for legislation. “Election time is not always an easy time to get any bill passed, but I think it’s really important to start the drum roll. To get people interested in thinking about this. Not only with the background check issue as a whole, but also its relationship to women and domestic violence and stalking. And when you talk about it that way people listen.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also said Tuesday bringing back background check legislation to the floor was a possibility, answering “yes” when asked directly in the Capitol, but noting “we need more votes.” At the panel discussion held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, a victim of gun violence also spoke. Sarah Engle was raped and almost killed when she was shot by an ex-boyfriend after she left him. She survived, but he murdered her mother, who she called her “best friend.”
“I can tell you that women, particularly victims of domestic violence and stalking, are at an unacceptable risk of fatal gun violence. I survived for a reason: to tell my story and bring changes to this broken system,” Engle said.
ABC News’ Scott Wilson contributed to this report.