In the black-and-white world of the Second Amendment, it's impossible for a public figure to both advocate for gun safety and be a gun owner. On March 13, a conservative radio host's blog posted two photos of Gabby Giffords holding an AR-15. This immediately led gun rights advocates to assume the weapon was the same one her husband, Mark Kelly, had recently purchased after the couple's Senate testimony in late January.
That incident itself created a shit storm of right-wing howling, especially from Breitbart.com, whose front page headline last week screamed about Kelly's hypocrisy, since he travels around the country speaking in favor of a ban on assault weapons, at the same time he goes out and buys an AR-15. As usual, Breitbart did not tell the full story, as Kelly made clear during an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer:
KELLY: Well, Wolf, it's important for me to have firsthand knowledge about how easy it is or difficult it is, you know, to buy a weapon like that. You know, it is through a background check obviously at a federally licensed gun dealer, but it is important for me to know, you know, what it is and to have firsthand knowledge. So in the future, you know, I'm looking forward at some point to buying a gun, you know, at a gun show, also possibly selling a gun so I know really the ins and outs of this issue.In other words, Kelly was doing research, which he'll continue to do at gun shows. Now two new pictures of Gabby holding an AR-15 have become the latest serving of red meat for NRA stooges, who are once again calling Giffords and Kelly hypocrites. From Gabby's Facebook page, here's a comment, just a few minutes old:
BLITZER: So what was it like going to a store and buying an AR-15?
KELLY: You know, it is actually pretty easy. You know, for a weapon that's so deadly and really designed for the military, especially with the high-capacity magazines, it is a pretty easy thing to do, even with a background check.
You and your husband post your refutations on your Facebook pages after you get busted. What other information on your two face opportunistic politics are we going to put up with. If weapons are so bad, why is your husband buying them and you were doing "stronger" poses with them. If you were against guns BEFORE a nut job killed some people at least you wouldn't be so hypocritical sounding.In Arizona's ungrammatical right-wing version of history, Giffords was once a staunch gun rights supporter, but now, after getting shot in the head, she's supposedly gone soft on the Second Amendment. The truth is, even though Giffords often said she owned guns and supported the Second Amendment, she consistently earned a D rating from the NRA, so it's not like she's done a 180 on gun rights.
Still, cries of "traitor" and "liar" pepper the right's online assault on Giffords, and this week's new photos threw even more ammo onto the fire. It doesn't matter that the AR-15 she's holding in the pictures is not the one recently purchased by Mark Kelly. [Note: as annieli says in the comments, one of the weapons is an AK-47, so it couldn't be the same gun.] No, the photos are more than two years old, but they're cropped in a way some viewers would not know that.
As Gabby explains, the first is of her with the Tucson Police at a shooting range—servants who should have an AR-15 shooting them where they should be shot. The second photo is of Gabby in Afghanistan—again, with troops who should have an assault weapon.
"Here are two photos of me that a conservative blog has dug up. I remember both of these days fondly. The first is at the Tucson Police Department firing range. They invited me to test rifles and Tasers that they bought with federal funds, which I helped secure. The second was in Afghanistan while I was visiting with our troops serving abroad."Gabby Giffords is one of the most credible voices speaking on behalf of gun safety—a respective civil servant, gun owner and victim of gun violence; and for that reason the NRA will find every reason to thwart her, like the supposed hypocrisy of these photos. Gabby's Facebook explanation of the two pictures suggests there is nothing incompatible with supporting the Second Amendment and advocating for gun safety legislation, such as background checks and large magazine bans. Sadly, Gabby's position requires a degree of commonsense that her critics are not willing to grant. And never will. Because unlike every other amendment, the Second is all or nothing.