Giffords co-founder and gun control activist Gabby Giffords is out with a new puff piece in Rolling Stone that’s audaciously headlined “cynicism is not an option when it comes to gun control“. Why’s that so audacious? Because the same person who said just a few weeks ago that her goal is “no more guns” is once again claiming that she’s only looking for “common ground” and blaming Second Amendment supporters for “extremism”.
The gun lobby has done its best to divide our nation and to polarize the conversation around guns. They want their base to believe that their Second Amendments rights are under attack, and that threats are lurking around every corner. This extremism drives votes and sells guns.
Rather than relying on extremism, I’ve sought to find common ground. Most Americans agree that gun violence is a problem we need to address. No American wants to worry that their child might not come home from school because of a mass shooting. Policies like closing loopholes in our federal background checks system, making sure every state has an extreme risk protection order or “red flag” law, and ensuring guns are kept away from kids have broad popular support.
Why would anyone believe their Second Amendment rights would be under attack? Could it be the states that are banning commonly-owned firearms and threatening gun owners with prison time for simply holding on to the guns and magazines they lawfully purchased? Could it be the four-figure fees some localities are charging folks who want to exercise their right to bear arms in self-defense? Maybe it’s the activists who are calling on Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to issue an executive order banning all gun sales and ordering a mandatory “buyback”… or the founder of one of the country’s biggest gun control groups who says her goal is simply “no more guns“?
As we wrap our interview in her office, I ask how she keeps coming back to a challenge so deeply ingrained in politics. She pauses for 12 pregnant seconds.
“No more guns,” she says.
Ambler, her aide and adviser, tries to clarify that she means no more gun violence, but Giffords is clear about what she’s saying. “No, no, no,” she says. “Lord, no.” She pauses another 32 seconds. “Guns, guns, guns. No more guns. Gone.”
An aide clarifies that she’s talking about Australia, where gun sales were outlawed after a mass shooting and existing weapons were purchased by the government. Giffords nods in the affirmative. It’s an idealistic goal, for sure, and one perhaps mismatched for the moment in this country. But Giffords has an answer for that: “Legislation, legislation, legislation.”
Time Magazine’s Phillip Elliott is wrong about the Australia gun ban, which didn’t outlaw all gun sales. In fact, there are more guns legally owned in Australia now than before the 1996 ban, which didn’t remove every gun in the country to begin with. In 1996 there were about 3.2-million privately owned firearms in the country. After the compensated confiscation, the number dipped to 2.7-million, but by 2017 there were an estimated 3.6-million guns in the hands of Australians.
Maybe Gabby Giffords herself is unclear about the effects of the Australian gun ban, but there seems to be no doubt about her end goal here in the United States. It’s not red flag laws, storage mandates, or “universal background checks.” It’s “no more guns. Gone.”
So yeah, I think it’s pretty cynical for Giffords and her handlers to pretend she never let the mask slip and revealed her true intentions, especially when she turns around and calls Second Amendment supporters extremists. What position is more extreme: the right to keep and bear arms in self-defense is a fundamental civil right that cannot be infringed upon, or “no more guns”? Where’s the common ground in that statement?
Look, I don’t begrudge Gabby Giffords’ gun control views, even if I don’t agree with them. She’s entitled to her opinion and is free to advocate for any gun control laws she wants. But when she tells a reporter that she wants to eradicate gun ownership and then puts her name behind an opinion piece pointing the finger at gun owners for dividing our nation and polarizing the conversation around guns, she’s engaging in the same cynical and dishonest approach she claims to condemn. I’d have more respect for Giffords if she’d simply come out and announce that the mission of her organization is to repeal the Second Amendment, but I doubt that will ever happen. Giffords may have let the mask slip while talking to Time, but her missive in Rolling Stone shows she knows how to play the gun control long game; claiming moderation and using an incrementalist approach, but always with the end goal of gun prohibition in mind.