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Giffords urges women to take the lead in the fight against gun violence

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, with husband Mark Kelly, speaks at a forum on domestic and gun violence against women, where she urged women to take the lead in the fight to stem gun violence. (Cronkite News photo/Miranda Rivers)

WASHINGTON -- Struggling to make her sentences connect and managing only a few sentences, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords still brought a crowd to its feet as she called for them to help put an end to gun violence against women.

"Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women," Giffords said carefully. "That makes gun violence a women's issue. For mothers, for families, for me and you."

Giffords and husband Mark Kelly, who held the microphone while she read her brief statement Wednesday, were in Washington for an event focusing on the intersection of domestic violence and gun violence. It was hosted by their organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, along with the Center for American Progress and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

The event highlighted a recent Center for American Progress report that found that 55 percent of the women slain by an intimate partner from 2001 to 2012 were killed by guns.

The report also reviewed conviction records in 20 states and found that at least 11,986 individuals in those states had been convicted of misdemeanor-level stalking but were still permitted to possess guns under federal law.

The event included a panel of advocates, a police chief, a lawmaker and a victim of domestic and gun violence, who focused on possible ways to protect women from gun violence.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she introduced the Protecting Domestic Violence and Stalking Victims Act to make sure that criminals and people who are violent don't have guns.

Her bill would expand protections for victims of stalking and domestic violence to include dating couples. It would also prohibit people who have been convicted of stalking, or who have a restraining order against them, from purchasing or possessing a firearm or ammunition.

But Klobuchar also said broader legislation is needed, pointing to the Manchin-Toomey bill that died in the Senate last year. That bipartisan gun background-check bill failed on a procedural vote, but recent news reports have quoted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., indicating it could be brought back up this year.

"I will never forget that day, it was one of my saddest days in the Senate when that bill went down," Klobuchar said of Manchin-Toomey.

Klobuchar said she remains hopeful that Congress can act on legislation to cut down gun violence.

Kelly, who also spoke at the event, said that a commitment to responsible ownership should be a part of gun ownership that is reflected in the law.

"Gabby and I are both responsible gun owners," he said. "Today we are talking about keeping guns out of the hands of men who stalk and abuse women.

"We are talking about passing laws that will absolutely save lives, especially the lives of women," said Kelly.

Kelly spoke first and then introduced Giffords, still recovering from injuries she suffered in a 2011 shooting spree in Tucson that killed six and wounded her and 12 others. She was welcomed by praise and cheers as she walked carefully to the podium Wednesday.

Although there is still much work to be done on gun-violence legislation, Giffords said she is optimistic.

"We stand for responsibility," she said. "Please join your voice with mine."

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