‘The nation is counting on you,’ Gabby Giffords tells gun-control advocates at Aurora rally

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AURORA | The theme of the night at the Gun Safety Town Hall in Aurora Monday evening was “courage.” 

Students talked about the courage it takes to practice active shooting drills. Lawmakers talked about the courage to pass legislation and moderator David Chipman, Giffords Senior Policy Advisor and former ATF Agent, told the crowd of about 150 people that 90 percent of change is showing up and showing courage.

Courage is “running toward and not away,” a video the crowd watched before the panel and former U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot at a  constituent meeting in her district in 2011, addressed the room. Colorado Congressmen Jason Crow, Ed Perlmutter and Joe Neguse all praised Giffords for her courage. Her gun violence prevention advocacy group, called Giffords, hosted the town hall. 

“Fight, fight, fight,” Giffords, who only spoke briefly, said. “Be bold. Be courageous. The nation is counting on you.” 

The event featured a panel of advocates, lawmakers and people who have been affected by gun violence. State Sen. Rhonda Fields (D-Aurora) said since her son was killed in 2005, she’s vowed to fight the National Rifle Association and disarm people who use guns for destruction. She added that she’d “like to retire that Cory guy,” referring to U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, who is up for election in 2020 and facing a host of Democrats who want to challenge him.

Giffords, the advocacy group, most recently launched a $750,000 ad campaign calling out Gardner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) for not supporting background check legislation that passed the House earlier this year.

The television ad was set to play in Colorado and Kentucky.

“Senate Republicans have witnessed tragedy after tragedy but blocked a vote on background checks,” Peter Ambler, Executive Director of Giffords, said in a statement about the ad campaign. “Families across America are living in fear that gunmen will attack them at their malls, churches, movie theaters, and schools. Americans have had enough. They’re demanding action and they’re expecting change. Senate Republicans can either protect the gun lobby and its profits from dangerous gun sales or they can hold a vote on background checks to protect their constituents.”

Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessi was killed in the Aurora theater shooting, Emi Ambory, director of the March For Our Lives Colorado chapter, Kiki Leyba, who teaches at Columbine High School, and Vic Bencomo, the co-leader of the Colorado Gun Owners for Safety, all talked about their work in gun violence prevention advocacy.

The crowd seemed to be supporters of stricter gun laws. One attendee even asking for the group to give the audience an elevator pitch they could use on people who don’t share their beliefs.

Fore more than an hour, the panel addressed the issue as it relates to schools. Ambory described herself as part of the “lockdown generation,” being born three years after the Columbine High School shooting.

“I’m not even sure why we call it a fire alarm,” Leyba said speaking about the drills. “I don’t think a school has burned down since the 1800s.” 

Instead, the students prepare for an active shooter. 

“They’re told to ‘run, hide, fight,’” Fields said. “How are you supposed to fight somebody with an AR-15?”

She said it’s still important to be prepared, just like it is for an emergency in an airplane, and that she plans to introduce legislation next year that would create a uniform way for school districts to prepare students for shootings.

Giffords endorsed Crow in 2017, saying that he “has shown the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and help lead the effort to reduce gun violence in our country.”