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It’s Way Too Hard To Dispose Of Unwanted Guns In The U.S.

To hear it from pro-gun groups, the bond between Americans and their firearms is nothing short of sacrosanct. Slogans like “from my cold, dead hands,” “come and take it,” or the more recently resurrected “molon labe” ― ancient Greek for “come and take it” ― have become popular identifiers on one side of the culture war over firearms in America. Those mottos may be helpful in understanding a certain type of gun owner, but they also belie a more diverse portrait of firearm ownership in the U.S.

In truth, there are untold people around the country who cling to their guns only because they feel they have no other choice.

We’ve heard from dozens of those individuals over the past year ― gun owners who wanted to get rid of firearms, but couldn’t find an acceptable way to do it. Earlier this month, we published a piece detailing a few of their experiences navigating the cultural and logistical barriers to gun disposal. That story prompted dozens more people to reach out.

They include longtime gun owners and firearm enthusiasts who said they’d had a change of heart. Many were people who’d inherited guns ― sometimes lots of them ― but never really wanted them or knew what to do with them. Some said they’d be willing to sell their firearms. But most said they’d prefer to see their guns destroyed, as it would be the only way to ensure they’d never be used for harm. Almost everyone we spoke to agreed that it should be much easier to dispose of unwanted firearms.

Without a uniform process to end the life cycle of guns in the U.S., the stockpile of civilian-held firearms has surged to 393 million weapons, according to an estimate published in June. Many of those guns are in the hands of responsible owners, who use them only as intended and store them securely to prevent theft or other unauthorized use. But many are not, said Ian Johnstone, founder of Gun by Gun, a nonprofit that organizes buybacks for firearms.

“There’s an all-time high number of guns circulating in the U.S., which is always at an all-time high,” Johnstone said. “It’s creating a situation where there are a lot of guns that aren’t necessarily wanted that pose a threat to all of us and there isn’t a good way to get rid of them.”

We don’t have much comprehensive national data on firearms, so it’s not clear exactly how much of a hazard those guns pose to public safety. We do know that gun thefts are relatively common. In the four-year period from 2012 to 2015, an estimated 1.2 million guns were stolen in the U.S., according to a Federal Bureau of Investigation report. Many of those firearms are taken from homes or vehicles, where they may be stored unsecured. Stolen guns often end up being used in shootings and other crimes. 

We feel that there needs to be a junkyard in America for firearms, and we are that junkyard.
Chip Ayers, National Center for Unwanted Firearms

Unwanted guns can also do damage when they remain in the home, because their owners may be less likely to keep a close eye on them, said David Chipman, senior policy adviser at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and former special agent at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“For people who don’t know about guns to have guns in their home is a recipe for accidents,” Chipman said. “If you have a box of old photos that you don’t know what to do with in your attic, they’re not going to hurt anyone. But if you have a box of guns, that’s not the same.”

The current options for disposing of firearms are limited. The most obvious route may be for gun owners to simply do it themselves. It’s possible to disable a firearm by melting or shredding it, or cutting the receiver of the weapon following Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives guidelines. But that requires equipment, as well as some basic gun and machining knowledge.

One metal recycling executive who asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash reached out to say that some auto shredder facilities are happy to destroy firearms and turn the resulting components into recyclable scrap.

People have also asked why gun owners couldn’t just toss their unwanted firearms into a lake, or disassemble the guns and dispose of the parts in separate trash bins.

Those DIY methods might serve their intended purpose, but gun owners told us they’d prefer a more formal process that could accommodate the destruction of multiple guns at once and give them official confirmation that their firearms have been decommissioned.

Johnstone’s Gun by Gun group is working to expand the firearm disposal process by organizing buybacks, events typically hosted by police departments, charities or other non-governmental groups, which offer modest compensation for surrendered weapons.

Gun by Gun partners with a law enforcement agency and raises money through crowdfunding to help provide incentives for buybacks. They collect survey data from participants at each site and use it to inform future events.

“Ultimately, we still need comprehensive reform in our federal gun policy, but in the meantime, we can help lead with community-led, community-funded gun buybacks and create this approach where people can demonstrate their value, rally together, become engaged and mobilized, and make a tangible impact on gun violence in their cities,” Johnstone said.

Dr. Mike Hirsh, a pediatric surgeon and cofounder of the Goods for Guns coalition, has run a number of buybacks in Pittsburgh and Massachusetts. He said they’ve turned up “significant” semi-automatic rifles as well as handguns, which account for the vast majority of gun violence. Hirsh pushed back on criticism of buybacks, which opponents say do little to drive down crime.

“We’ve never claimed to be a crime-buster program, we are looking at ourselves as an injury reduction and education program,” he said. “The low-hanging fruit of what we’re trying to prevent are suicides, kid accidental shootings, the rise in breaking and entering that we’ve seen unfortunately as a consequence of the opioid crisis where this is a very liquid form of exchange: You steal a gun and you can get drugs very easily.”

An electromagnet is used to pick up some of approximately 3,500 confiscated guns to be melted down at Gerdau Steel Mill on Ju

David McNew via Getty Images

An electromagnet is used to pick up some of approximately 3,500 confiscated guns to be melted down at Gerdau Steel Mill on July 19, 2018 in Rancho Cucamonga, California. The weapons were seized in criminal investigations, probation seizures and gun buyback events, and will be recycled into steel rebar for the construction of highways and bridges. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Even if police don’t host buybacks, some departments do allow residents to turn in their firearms, though there’s little consistency in how they accept weapons or what they do with them after they’re surrendered.

Some departments accept guns no questions asked, while others check to make sure that they were legally owned and hadn’t been involved in prior shootings. Some departments destroy surrendered firearms, but a number of states have passed laws prohibiting them from doing so. Agencies may end up re-selling these guns to the public or passing them off to officers for service or personal use. Department policies are rarely posted publicly, and many officers may not be familiar with their practices, so it can be difficult to figure out how to proceed.

The lack of resources for gun disposal led Chip Ayers and Bruce Seiler to launch the National Center for Unwanted Firearms in 2017. Both men come from lengthy careers in the U.S. Secret Service, and said they were concerned that many unwanted firearms were being sold in private transactions, which can be conducted without a background check under federal law and in most states. They want gun owners to have more choices for safely selling or disposing of firearms.

“We feel that there needs to be a junkyard in America for firearms, and we are that junkyard,” Seiler said.

Since its founding, the National Center for Unwanted Firearms has fielded 160 inquiries, said Ayers. Most have been from gun owners asking for the center’s help in brokering a sale to a federally licensed dealer, which must conduct a background check for every transaction. The center also contacts museums about historic firearms to see if they’re worth preserving, and will destroy any gun that isn’t. Beyond that, Seiler and Ayers say they advise clients on proper gun storage and handling, and walk them through the process of legally transferring firearms if they choose.

“There’s a lot of different moving parts and organizations and rules, federal, state and local, so we’re here to assist with the process in any shape and form,” Seiler said.

Artists have also stepped up to help take unwanted guns permanently out of circulation. Earlier this year, we reported on Lead to Life, a project that repurposed firearms by melting them down and casting them into shovels that they used to plant trees and gardens in the Atlanta area. Other groups like RAWtools, Inc. have also gotten behind this modern day swords-to-plowshares movement, working to help communities reduce gun violence by encouraging people to disarm and have their firearms transformed into tools.

Together, all of these options provide only a loose patchwork system for gun disposal in the U.S. To Hirsh, the surgeon and buyback proponent, there needs to be a much larger, more coordinated effort to serve people who want to get rid of firearms. In 2017, he helped organize the first National Gun Buyback Day, which featured events around New England and in San Francisco. Hirsh says they’re set to expand this year, with a date tentatively set for Dec. 15.

Ultimately, Hirsh said he’d like to see at least one buyback in every state, in a nationwide effort that he compared to the federally sponsored prescription drug take back day.

“We’re not confiscating. It’s not mandatory. It just gives people the opportunity and the agency to say, ‘I don’t want that gun anymore,’” Hirsh said.

California Bans Gun Sales To Anyone Under 21

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Most people under 21 won’t be able to buy guns in California starting next year under a law Gov. Jerry Brown announced signing Friday.

It will prevent people under 21 from buying rifles and other types of guns. State law already bans people under 21 from buying handguns.

The new law exempts law enforcement, members of the military and people with hunting licenses from the restriction.

It was one of dozens of bills Brown took action on.

Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino pointed to the shooting at a Florida high school earlier this year that killed 17 people as the reason for his bill banning gun sales and transfers to people under 21.

“I was determined to help California respond appropriately to the tragic events our country has recently faced on high school campuses,” Portantino said in a statement. “I feel it is imperative that California leads when Washington refuses to act.”

Brown also signed a bill to prohibit gun ownership for people who have been hospitalized or otherwise placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold for risk of hurting themselves or others twice in one year. That law would let those people ask a court every five years to return their guns.

He also signed a bill to ban people with certain domestic violence misdemeanors from owning guns for life.

In addition to the gun-related bills, he vetoed a measure that would have let bars in some cities serve alcohol until 4 a.m., which he said would result in more drunken driving.

California currently lets bars serve alcohol until 2 a.m.

“I believe we have enough mischief from midnight to 2 without adding two more hours of mayhem,” he wrote in his veto message.

It would have allowed extended hours in nine California cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Brown also vetoed a bill that would have opened the door for parents to serve edible marijuana to their children on school grounds to treat medical conditions. Children could be given cannabis only if the school board adopted a policy to allow it.

Brown said in his veto message that he’s concerned about exposing youth to marijuana and believes the bill is too broad, allowing its use for all ailments.

“I think we should pause before going much further down this path,” he wrote.

2 More Arrested In Fatal Shooting Of North Carolina Mayor And His Wife

Authorities in North Carolina have made two more arrests in the slaying of a small town mayor and his wife.

Mitchell Brinson and Dakeithia Nesha Andrews are suspected of involvement in the deaths of Leggett Mayor Gary Eugene Skelton Sr. and his wife, Jackie Dawn Skelton, according to the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office.

Brinson, 18, of Tarboro, was taken into custody on Friday and is being held on a first-degree murder charge. Andrews, 31, of Rocky Mount, was arrested on Saturday. She is facing a charge of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, authorities said.

Deputies made the first arrest in the case on Thursday, when they charged Tarboro resident Keith Earl Williams, 25, of first-degree murder. According to WBBM-TV, Williams was released from prison on Aug. 28 after being convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and felony possession of a firearm by a felon in April 2017.

According to Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson, Gary and Jackie Skelton were found shot to death in their home on North Carolina Highway 33 on Thursday. They were last seen alive on Wednesday, police said.

The couple’s bodies were discovered after someone requested a welfare check on them. Gary Skelton, 70, was a retired banker in his second term as mayor of Leggett, which has a population of 55, according to The Charlotte Observer. Jackie Skelton, 66, was a nurse at Vidant Oncology. They are survived by three adult sons and several grandchildren.

Mitchell Brinson, 18, has been arrested in relation to the double homicide of Leggett Mayor Gary Skelton and his wife, Jackie

Edgecombe County Sheriffs Office

Mitchell Brinson, 18, has been arrested in relation to the double homicide of Leggett Mayor Gary Skelton and his wife, Jackie Skelton.

“They would have given them the shirt off their back,” Teresa Summerlin, a town commissioner, told Raleigh’s WNCN News. “For this to happen in this small a community. The work that man has done for this community. People just don’t realize he has invested so many man hours.”

Authorities have not commented on a suspected motive for the slayings.

“The investigation is still active and ongoing,” the sheriff’s office said in a Saturday press release. “We continue to ask for assistance from the public.”

The press release also suggests that authorities do not expect to make additional arrests: “Sheriff Atkinson wants to assure the citizens that the investigation has revealed this to be an isolated incident and that there is no further danger to the public.”

Keith Williams, 25, has been arrested and is facing first-degree murder charges.

Edgecombe County Sheriffs Office

Keith Williams, 25, has been arrested and is facing first-degree murder charges.

The slayings have some people in the community on edge.

“I mean you read about it all the time … so it just makes you rethink and makes you feel like you need to carry a weapon with you at all times,” area resident Joe Edmundson told WWAY-TV.

All three suspects are being held at the Edgecombe County Detention Center.

The Skeltons were found dead on Thursday, police said.

Englewood Baptist Church

The Skeltons were found dead on Thursday, police said.

The sheriff’s office is asking anyone with information in the case to contact them at 252-641-7911.

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Parkland Survivor Testifies Against Kavanaugh

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Family Who Survived Vegas Attack Says Their Comfort Dog Has Been Shot, Killed

BELLINGHAM, Wash. (AP) — A Washington state family that survived the mass shooting last year at a Las Vegas concert says a neighbor shot and killed the dog they got to deal with stress and anxiety from the attack.

The neighbor was cited by police for recklessly firing a gun and declined to comment.

Meet Jax. He became a comfort dog to Joseph and Lona Johnson after they survived last October's mass shooting at a country mu

Joseph Johnson via AP

Meet Jax. He became a comfort dog to Joseph and Lona Johnson after they survived last October’s mass shooting at a country music concert in Las Vegas. He was shot and killed on Sunday.

The Bellingham Herald reported that Lona and Joseph Johnson were at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in October when a gunman shot and killed 58 people and injured hundreds of others.

Among the wounded was their cousin, Melinda Brockie, who attended the festival with them.

The couple heard that dogs are good pets to help heal from post-traumatic stress, Joseph Johnson said, and they picked out a Labradoodle named Jax.

The comfort dog was for themselves and their two children, who weren’t at the concert but saw the news coverage and knew their parents had been shot at.

“He was such a blessing,” Joseph Johnson said of Jax. ”He gave us something to look forward to. I really believe Jax was a big part of our healing.”

Joseph Johnson, right, and his wife Lona, left, of Whatcom County in Washington, pose with their late dog, Jax. “He was

Lona Johnson via AP

Joseph Johnson, right, and his wife Lona, left, of Whatcom County in Washington, pose with their late dog, Jax. “He was such a blessing,” Joseph said. 

Early Sunday, they heard gunshots. They say a neighbor in their rural northwest Washington community shot and killed Jax.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said it cited the neighbor, 49-year-old Odin Maxwell, for recklessly discharging a firearm.

The sheriff’s office reported that Maxwell said the dog had been chasing his chickens. Investigators turned up no evidence that any chickens had been hurt.

Maxwell, a workers compensation lawyer in Bellingham, declined to comment to The Associated Press on Thursday.

The Johnsons said they had not had any previous dealings with Maxwell, and Joseph Johnson said a nephew even returned one of Maxwell’s chickens unharmed after it came onto their property only days before the dog was shot.

He said the couple is considering suing Maxwell. They also plan to host a 5K run for people with their dogs to raise awareness about animal cruelty.

“We’re pretty upset and hurt right now,” Lona Johnson said. “It triggered a lot of PTSD for our family. We’re still trying to deal with what happened in Las Vegas, and then this happened. Everybody who knows us knows how important Jax was to us.”

Brett Kavanaugh Snubs Father Of Parkland Shooting Victim

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s latest nominee to the Supreme Court, on Tuesday declined to shake hands with Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter died in a mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, earlier this year.

A fiery confirmation hearing took place for Kavanaugh on Tuesday, marked by periodic interruptions from protestors. Democratic lawmakers called for the hearing to be delayed, pointing out that senators had received 42,000 pages of documents from the judge’s time working with President George W. Bush just hours before.

White House counsel Don McGahn, second from right, watches as Guttenberg attempts to shake hands with Kavanaugh.

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

White House counsel Don McGahn, second from right, watches as Guttenberg attempts to shake hands with Kavanaugh.

Guttenberg’s daughter Jaime was 14 when she was killed by a gunman who opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February. Seventeen people were killed in the shooting, and more than a dozen others were injured. Since Jaime’s death, Guttenberg has been a vocal proponent of gun control.

As Tuesday’s morning session ended, Guttenberg said he approached Kavanaugh for a handshake.

“Put out my hand to introduce myself as Jaime Guttenberg’s dad,” he wrote on Twitter. “He pulled his hand back, turned his back to me and walked away. I guess he did not want to deal with the reality of gun violence.”  

Kavanaugh’s critics say his confirmation to the Supreme Court could lead to a shift against responsible gun control laws.

Photos and video of the incident show Kavanaugh looking at Guttenberg, who has his hand outstretched. Kavanaugh then turns his back on him.

Guttenberg speaks as Kavanaugh moves away from him after rebuffing Guttenberg's attempt at a handshake.

Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Guttenberg speaks as Kavanaugh moves away from him after rebuffing Guttenberg’s attempt at a handshake.

In a tweet, White House press secretary Raj Shah described the encounter thusly: “As Judge Kavanaugh left for his lunch break, an unidentified individual approached him. Before the Judge was able to shake his hand, security had intervened.”

But Guttenberg, in his own tweet response, said that was “incorrect.”

“I was here all day and introduced by Senator [Dianne] Feinstein,” Guttenberg wrote. “No security involved. He turned and walked away.”

Levi Strauss CEO Sets Up Fund To Help Groups Working to Lessen U.S. Gun Violence

Levi Strauss & Co. is taking a much higher profile in efforts to reduce gun violence in the U.S., committing itself to donating more than $1 million to groups pursuing that goal.

Company president and CEO Chip Bergh, in a letter published in Fortune on Tuesday, detailed why the denim-jean manufacturing behemoth would start partnering with gun safety advocates. He cited a 2016 letter he wrote requesting gun owners not bring weapons into his stores after a customer in Georgia shot himself while trying on a pair of jeans.

“In the days after I published that letter, I received threats to our stores, our business, and even on my life. It was unsettling,” Bergh said. But referring to the mass shooting at a Florida high school in February and 2012 slaughter at a Connecticut elementary school, added that “these personal attacks pale in comparison to the threats that activists and survivors from Parkland, Sandy Hook, and daily incidents of gun violence face every time they speak up on this issue.”

Bergh in his letter announced the company’s establishment of the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which intends to funnel grants totaling more than $1 million over the next four years to nonprofits working to end gun violence in the country. Bergh said the company also would double all donations made by its employees to the Safer Tomorrow Fund.

And Strauss & Co. will be working with Everytown for Gun Safety, which former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg set up in 2014 to, according to its mission statement, help build “a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities.”

“You may wonder why a company that doesn’t manufacture or sell guns is wading into this issue, but for us, it’s simple,” Bergh wrote. “Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and all walks of life.”

Addressing those likely to react negatively to the company’s moves, he said: “I know that Americans, including many of our own consumers, employees, and other partners, hold a wide spectrum of views related to guns. I’m not here to suggest we repeal the Second Amendment or to suggest that gun owners aren’t responsible. In fact, as a former U.S. Army officer, I took a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. But as retired four-star general Michael Hayden once said, ‘There are some weapons out there that frankly nobody should have access to. And actually, there are some people out there who should never have access to any weapons.’”

Coming 2 Days Before Primary, Jacksonville Shooting Certain To Change… Nothing

With Florida’s primary election coming barely two days after a mass shooting at a video game tournament in Jacksonville, how much will that tragedy affect the race for governor?

How about zero.

All five of the Democratic candidates vocally oppose the National Rifle Association and support measures such as a ban on assault weapons. The GOP’s two leading candidates, state agriculture commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, are taking the standard Republican position of supporting the NRA and opposing new gun restrictions.

“Both of those guys are pro-gun. They’re not going to change at this point,” said longtime Florida pollster Brad Coker. “There’s not much difference between the Dems, either.”

Two men competing in a video football tournament were shot to death Sunday afternoon by a fellow player, who then killed himself. Eleven others were wounded at the downtown Jacksonville Landing tourist destination.

The death toll is significantly lower than the 17 who were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, early this year and the 49 who were murdered at the Pulse night club in Orlando in 2016.

“Unfortunately, the half-life on these incidents is getting shorter as time goes by,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who led former President Barack Obama’s two wins in the state and who is now an adviser to former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham’s gubernatorial campaign.

What’s more, Florida frequently has shooting incidents with multiple victims. Just two days earlier and six miles away, one person was killed and two injured at a high school football game. The previous Friday, two were shot at a high school football game in Palm Beach County.

One political consultant who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Jacksonville incident, in a high-profile tourist area where most of the tournament attendees were relatively well-off, is getting far more attention than most shootings in the state, in which the victims are black or Latino, such as the one two days earlier.

Schale agreed that the Jacksonville shooting would not affect either gubernatorial primary much, but said he did think the issue would help Democrats in the November general election. He pointed to the decision of both Putnam and DeSantis to cancel planned events in Jacksonville ― a major population center for both Republican and Democratic primary voters ― while several of the Democratic candidates, including Graham, kept their scheduled visits to the city. “The purpose of the visit obviously changed,” he said.

Schale recalled a time not long ago when Democratic candidates for statewide office in Florida would avoid speaking about guns entirely. “I do think the tone around gun safety has changed dramatically. The state is a different place than it was years ago,” he said. “Both Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis are out of the mainstream compared to where most Americans are on guns today.”

Putnam declared himself a “proud NRA sellout” when he began his campaign last year. DeSantis has said he would have vetoed the law that imposed some modest restrictions on firearms immediately after the Parkland school massacre ― a law that was pushed for and signed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is now running for U.S. Senate.

Neither of the GOP candidates’ campaigns responded to HuffPost’s queries on the matter. The Florida lobbyist for the NRA, Marion Hammer, hung up on a reporter. Subsequent calls to her number produced only silence on her end of the line, as someone would pick up the phone but then not speak or respond to greetings.

Coker, the pollster, said he doubted this latest shooting would alter public sentiment much at all. He said his polling over the years has found that guns are as polarizing as abortion, with few “persuadable” voters open to changing their minds or even willing to listen.

“If it’s there, it’s a sliver,” he said, referring to any potential shift in opinion. “It’s not going to have a major effect even on the general election.”

Gun Safety Group Taps Veterans To Help Bridge Divides In Gun Debate

Retired four-star Gen. Michael Hayden has confronted more than his fair share of threats throughout a 39-year career in the U.S. Air Force and tenures atop the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency. 

In a video released Monday by gun violence prevention group Giffords, Hayden cites a sobering statistic to underscore the urgency of his latest mission to protect.

“We’ve had more Americans killed in high schools in this country in the last year than have been killed in Afghanistan,” Hayden says.

He could have gone further. So far this year, the number of people killed in school shootings is more than double that of all U.S. military personnel who have died in combat zones around the world, according to a recent tally.

Hayden partnered with Giffords for “There Is No Other Side,” a new veteran-focused campaign meant to bridge longstanding political and cultural divides in the gun debate. In the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections, Giffords will be actively recruiting and organizing veterans in a number of states to lend their voices to conversations around firearms in the United States. The push will feature paid and earned media ― including a series of videos featuring high-ranking generals such as Hayden ― as well as veteran press conferences, meetings with legislators and others days of action.

Guns remain a deeply contentious issue in the U.S., and the inability to establish common ground has led to hyper polarization and a status quo of political inaction. These splits often fall along broader partisan or regional lines, but organizers at Giffords say there’s a particularly divisive narrative at the core of the gun debate that they hope veterans can combat.

“If you asked someone to summarize the gun debate, they’ll say there’s one side that wants to take away all of the guns and the other side that doesn’t want to do anything,” said Stasha Rhodes, manager of engagement at Giffords.

Supporting the Second Amendment right to gun ownership and wanting to take steps to ensure that firearms don’t fall into the wrong hands are not mutually exclusive positions, Rhodes said. Lots of people understand that, including many who’d likely consider themselves to be pro-gun. But portrayals of the gun violence prevention movement as dominated by anti-gun liberals who know nothing about firearms haven’t always made it easy to reach across that gap, she added.

With the help of veterans, Giffords is hopeful they’ll have more success engaging non-traditional gun safety allies.

“Veterans have a unique ability to reach out to gun owners, conservatives, NRA and former NRA members that actually do support … common sense steps to end gun violence,” said Rhodes. “They’re highlighting the importance of taking the partisan air that inflates this debate out of the conversation.”

Ultimately, the campaign’s message is pretty straightforward. “When it comes to saving lives from gun violence, there is no other side,” reads the tagline. Giffords hasn’t attached specific policy objectives to the campaign, but veterans working with the organization could help lobby for state-level legislative initiatives.

Giffords has previously made a point of amplifying veteran voices in their gun violence prevention efforts. The group, founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, a Navy combat veteran and former NASA astronaut, has assembled a veterans coalition of more than 20 generals and admirals committed to reducing shootings in the U.S. Members include Gen. Wesley Clark, Adm. Thad Allen, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Gen. David Petraeus.

Although high-profile mass shootings in schools and public places appear to be of particular concern to Hayden, gun violence also affects veterans in specific ways. Around 20 U.S. veterans die by suicide each day on average, and two-thirds of those deaths involve firearms, according to federal data. They’re among the more than 35,000 people in America who die in firearm-related deaths every year.

The failure to take meaningful steps to reduce this death toll has clearly left generals “frustrated” and wanting to contribute, said Kelly.

“On this issue, we know what works and we know what doesn’t,” Kelly said. “Most of us realize that more guns in more places is not going to make us safer, it’s actually just going to result in more people getting shot and more people getting killed.”

Like Kelly and Giffords, many of the veterans getting involved with the campaign are gun owners themselves, sympathetic to people who choose to own a firearm for protection.

“Nobody here, not me, not Gen. Hayden, not any of these other veterans, are trying to prevent somebody from protecting their family in their home ― that’s a right,” said Kelly.

But Kelly said many generals feel that as a country, we’ve “lost our way” on the issue of gun policy.

“We make it very easy for felons, domestic abusers, even suspected terrorists to buy firearms. The dangerously mentally ill can get access to firearms,” said Kelly. “It doesn’t need to be that way.”

These Are The Victims Of The Jacksonville Shooting

Eli “Trueboy” Clayton and Taylor “SpotMePlzzz” Robertson were killed after a gunman attacked an esports tournament in Jacksonville, Florida, on Sunday, according to local media reports.

Law enforcement officials have not yet confirmed the victims’ identities, though family members and friends have spoken out about their deaths.

Competitors were participating in the southern qualifier of EA Sports’ “Madden 19” championship series, a video game football tournament, at the Jacksonville Landing shopping mall when a gunman opened fire, killing Clayton and Robertson, and injuring nine others. The suspect died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Two others were injured fleeing the scene. 

Clayton, 22, was a frequent competitor at Madden events and was described by EA Sports as “consistently one of the best.” Clayton was entering the second round of the tournament when shots began to fire. 

Shay Kivlen, the 2018 Madden Bowl Champion, posted a tribute to Clayton on Twitter, describing him as “one of my best friends in life.” 

“You were one of the most kind and genuine people I’ve ever met,” Kivlen wrote. “I love u like a brother. I’m gonna miss hearing you laugh everyday and seeing your genuine smile.”

Robertson, 27, of Ballard, West Virginia, was a former champion, having won the Madden 17 Classic tournament in 2016. EA Sports described Robertson, who won 72 percent his matches, as the “toughest opponents in competitive Madden.” 

He began playing Madden when he was 10 years old, but only began playing competitively in recent years. He was excited to fly to Jacksonville, tweeting days earlier that it was “time to chase that second belt.” 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Hayley Miller contributed reporting.

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