US & Canada

Gabrielle Giffords launches gun control campaign

A former US congresswoman who survived a gunshot wound to her head during a mass shooting has launched a campaign against gun violence.

Gabrielle Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative aims to raise money for gun control efforts.

It comes as the White House holds talks with groups representing gun-owners, victims and the video game industry.

A school shooting in December that killed 20 children and six adults has fuelled debate over gun violence.

Ms Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly - both gun owners - wrote in USA Today on Tuesday: "In response to a horrific series of shootings... Congress has done something quite extraordinary - nothing at all."

The couple also highlight the influence of the gun lobby, adding: "Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources."

Giffords v NRA

The initiative aims to counter the influence of powerful pro-gun groups such as the National Rifle Association, which in 2011 spent more money on lobbying than all gun control groups combined.

"Until now, the gun lobby's political contributions, advertising and lobbying have dwarfed spending from anti-gun violence groups. No longer," Ms Giffords wrote.

The couple make it clear they do not intend to take away guns from responsible owners, but the BBC's Paul Adams says their article is a declaration of war on one of the most powerful vested interests in America.

The launch of the initiative marks two years exactly since Ms Giffords was shot during a meeting with constituents in Tucson, Arizona.

She is still recovering and her husband did most of the talking in the ABC interview.

On Friday, the former congresswoman visited Newtown, Connecticut, where the elementary school shooting occurred, and met families of the victims.

Connecticut Representative DebraLee Hovey, who represents Newtown in the state legislature, was criticised after she wrote on Facebook: "Gabby Gifford [sic] stay out of my towns!!" The politician has since apologised.

Ms Giffords and Mr Kelly also recently met New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a vocal gun control advocate.

The White House will meet the NRA later on in the week

In the wake of last month's shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, some pro-gun lawmakers have said they are reconsidering their views.

But correspondents say that attention around the issue may have slipped as politicians focused on reaching a deal to avert tax rises and spending cuts that were due to take effect at the end of the year. Another round of deadlines looms at the end of March.

The White House has pledged to look for ways to curb gun violence and is due to make proposals by the end of January.

Vice-President Joe Biden, who is leading the White House effort, is scheduled to meet gun violence victims groups and gun safety organisations on Wednesday.

He is also due to hold discussions this week with the NRA and other gun-owner groups, as well as representatives from the entertainment industry.

President Barack Obama has called on Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, restrict availability of high-magazine clips and close a loophole allowing private gun sales to proceed without a background check.

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