LAS VEGAS (AP) — A day after Las Vegas marked the first anniversary of a mass shooting that killed 58 people, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords sought to rally gun violence survivors, Democratic candidates and activists Tuesday in a push to register young voters and elect candidates who back gun control.
Monday's anniversary of the Oct. 1, 2017, attack at a country music festival, along with a gun violence round table and a voter mobilization event Tuesday, revived a debate on guns in Nevada, where voters have divided attitudes toward firearms.
Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who was gravely wounded in a 2011 shooting at a constituent gathering in Tucson, has founded a gun safety organization and a political operation focused on challenging incumbents, including Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who is in a tight re-election battle.
"It's time to stand up for what's right. It's time for courage. We must do something. We must stop gun violence," Giffords said.
Heller's Democratic challenger, freshman U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, joined Giffords and other Democratic House candidates including Susie Lee, former Rep. Steven Horsford, and Rep. Dina Titus.
Giffords' husband Mark Kelly, who noted he's a gun owner and veteran, acknowledged guns are complicated issue that he and his wife have been tackling for years.
"To change our laws, we have to change the people in office or re-elect the people that are trying to do something about this," Kelly said. "We need to get the right people into office."
Guns are part of Nevada's western lifestyle and tradition, but the increasingly progressive electorate has been pushing for changes to gun laws, particularly in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, which was the deadliest in modern U.S. history.
Chris Davis, whose daughter Neysa Tonks was killed in the Las Vegas shooting, said Tuesday that he attended the round table to learn how the candidates plan to vote and what they'll do about gun violence. Davis said he was encouraged to hear pledges to work on background checks and more gun legislation.
"Now, I want to see what they're going to do," he said
Heller — and every other member of Nevada's congressional delegation — were conspicuously absent from a televised huddle President Donald Trump held in March with lawmakers from states that have been touched by gun violence.
Trump and Heller, who has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, did not mention the shooting at a Las Vegas rally two weeks ago held only a few miles away from the shooting scene.
Heller's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but his office last week applauded the U.S. Justice Department for working to finalize a rule to ban the sale of bump stock devices — which the Las Vegas gunman used to modify his weapons to allow them to mimic fully automatic fire.
Though Nevada politicians on both sides of the aisle have focused their campaigns more on issues like immigration, health care and Trump, other political organizations and activists are spending money and time in Nevada to elevate the gun issue.
California billionaire Tom Steyer, who is spending $ 2million in Nevada to defeat Heller and Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt, planned to join them for a voter canvassing event later Tuesday at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas as part of his NextGen America's efforts to engage with young voters.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a group backed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was also supporting the event.
Giffords and Kelly have unsuccessfully pushed Congress to enact gun control measures for years and have since shifted their focus to state legislatures. Giffords' group said earlier this year it planned to build on the student activism coming out of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting and engage young voters.