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Giffords calls on women to highlight gun violence

October 21, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords charged Tuesday that “dangerous people with guns are a threat to women” as she worked to rally female voters across Iowa and inject gun control into one of the nation’s marquee Senate contests.

“Women can lead the way,” Giffords told domestic violence leaders gathered in Iowa’s capital city during a 43-second speech that was halting and slurred at moments, but largely clear. “We can change our laws. We can change elections.”

The Iowa stop comes as Giffords nears the end of a two-week national tour that also includes a series of roundtable meetings in Minnesota, Oregon and Washington State this week alone.

The Arizona Democrat has become the reluctant face of the gun control movement, having been shot through the head as she met with constituents outside a grocery store almost four years ago. The attacker killed six and left Giffords with permanent brain damage.

Fighting speech problems and partial paralysis, she has pushed Congress unsuccessfully to expand background checks for all gun purchases and suffered similar disappointment in state capitals. Now, two weeks from the nation’s midterm election, Giffords is simply fighting to ensure gun violence isn’t completely forgotten this fall.

She delivered the opening remarks at an hour-long discussion focused on tightening state and federal laws that allow those with domestic violence or stalking convictions to buy guns.

Iowa state Rep. Marti Anderson described guns and domestic violence as “a lethal combination” and offered a message to worried gun owners: “I’m not going to take your guns away. But if you hurt somebody you’ve pledged to love, your guns are going away.”

There was little direct talk of the midterm elections at the Iowa event, although Giffords’ organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, is backing Iowa’s Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley’s Senate bid against GOP state Sen. Joni Ernst. The group is also running ads against Republican congressional candidate David Young in Iowa’s 3rd district.

None of the congressional candidates appeared with Giffords on Tuesday.

Braley adviser Jeff Link said Braley was not distancing himself from Giffords, but was instead focused on first lady Michelle Obama’s Tuesday visit to the state. Link noted that Giffords was a featured guest last year at a large Braley fundraiser.

“There are a lot of things going on in the race and a lot of things competing for time and attention,” Link said.

He suggested that gun control may become one of Braley’s focuses in the coming days. “I think we’ll bring it up in a variety of ways,” Link said.

Giffords’ camp says the tour is designed, at least in part, to energize women in Iowa and elsewhere who are often more willing to support tighter gun laws than men. A Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll this month found that nearly half of likely female voters in Iowa support more restrictive laws to keep guns away from criminals, while just a third of men feel the same way.

“Women can lead the way,” Giffords said. “We stand for common sense.”

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