Gabby Giffords launches new gun control campaign, and it's all about women

Gabrielle Giffords's nine-state tour focuses on guns and domestic violence, and it has reignited the debate over which side of the gun debate truly represents women.

Charles Krupa/AP
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona is greeted by supporters following a roundtable discussion on the first stop of her 'Protect All Women' tour in Portland, Maine, Tuesday. Giffords, who was severely wounded in a 2011 shooting that killed six in Tucson, is seeking to elevate the issue of gun violence against women on state and federal levels.

Former US Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) of Arizona began a nine-state tour Tuesday in Maine focusing on the need for tougher gun control measures to protect women and children.

Ms. Giffords, who was severely wounded in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that killed six people, has become a key figure in the national gun control campaign. The campaign highlights the increasingly prominent role women have played in both sides in the gun control debate – particularly since the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings in 2012. 

Women have also become a key political demographic for both sides of the gun control debate, and Giffords's cross-country "Protect All Women Tour" represents the latest effort to win the key demographic over.

Giffords's gun-control advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions, calls guns and domestic violence "a lethal mix."

Women in the United States are eleven times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries, according to a report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a gun control advocacy group formed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The report also found that at least 53 percent of women murdered with guns in the US in 2011 were killed by intimate partners or family members, and that in states that require a background check for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot to death by intimate partners.

The "Protect All Women Tour" seeks to raise more awareness about the links between gun control and domestic violence and push for new measures to make it tougher for domestic violence abusers to access guns, including prohibiting people with misdemeanor-level stalking crimes from buying firearms, and expanding background checks to ensure that domestic violence abusers can't buy firearms at gun shows.

The gun lobby has fought hard to prevent the gun debate turning into a battle of the sexes, with concerned women demanding change and stubborn men standing in the way. When the gun debate became most heated, shortly after the December 2012 shooting of 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., women became the face and voice of Second Amendment defenders. Gayle Trotter, a lawyer and senior fellow at the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, drew special attention during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2013 when she told lawmakers that "guns make women safer."

"The peace of mind that [a woman] has, knowing that she has a scary-looking gun, gives her more courage when she’s fighting hardened, violent criminals" that could break into her home, Ms. Trotter said during the hearing, according to MSNBC.

Trotter added during the hearing that she spoke "on behalf of millions of American women across the country,” at which point she was booed in the hearing room – with one person yelling, "No, you don't" –according to The Washington Post

More recently, the National Rifle Association has kept women at the forefront of its campaigns. At the group's annual meeting in Indianapolis in April, maternity was a popular theme, with several high-profile speakers focused on the importance of guns to women's safety and protection, including former Gov. Sarah Palin (R) of Alaska.

"Maybe our kids could be defended against criminals on the spot if more Mama Grizzlies carried,” Ms. Palin said, according to The Washington Times. “And [the] Obama administration wants you ID’d for that? Well then, go ahead and carry a sign too. A sign that says, ‘Yeah, I carry a gun, because a cop is too heavy.' "

At the same meeting, a number of women-focused, pro-gun groups announced the formations of their own super Political Action Committee's, including 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control.

And Tuesday, when Giffords's "Protect All Women Tour" began, the NRA took to its official Twitter account with a clear focus on women in mind, including retweeting these three posts:

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