Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was gravely wounded in a 2011 mass shooting that killed six and injured 12 others, attended a New York gun show Sunday to draw attention to voluntary background checks for buyers.
Giffords, 43, who was shot through the head at a meet-and-greet event with constituents in Tuscon two years ago, visited the Saratoga Springs Arms Fair with her former astronaut husband, Mark Kelly, and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
The former Democratic legislator, who resigned from her post a year ago in order to recuperate and has become one of the key public faces of a nationwide gun-control campaign, has described herself as a supporter of the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.
However, she and her husband have lobbied gun show operators to put in place stricter measures on gun purchases.
The voluntary procedures at the New York show had all gun buyers cleared by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — a measure that closes the controversial "gun show loophole," which permitted show buyers to go around required background checks when purchasing firearms at a retail outlet.
"It's great to be able to see people sell the firearms they have collected," Kelly told Reuters, adding that he and his wife still keep guns in their house. "It's great for Gabby and I to see a system that works."
Giffords and 18 other people — including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl — were shot in January 2011 by Jared Lee Loughner in a supermarket parking lot. The judge and the girl died from their injuries.
Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts last November. He was sentenced to life without parole.
"Stopping gun violence takes courage. The courage to do what's right. The courage of new ideas," Giffords told Reuters.
"Now is the time to come together, be responsible ... Be bold, be courageous, the nation is counting on you," she said, reportedly speaking in a halting manner, according to Reuters.
Under the voluntary deal between gun show operators and Schneiderman, all firearms are tagged at the entrances to gun shows. And operators are required to provide computer stations for sellers to perform nationwide background checks on buyers, according to the Associated Press.
Schneiderman, who has cooperated with all 35 gun show operators in New York, demonstrated for the couple how the procedures work, according to the AP.
Giffords, Kelly and Schneiderman faced a largely warm reception, although the event was not without tension, according to the AP.
Amid light applause and smiles, some attendees audibly booed at the event, while a dozen protesters rallied outside the venue, bearing signs condemning New York's gun-control law that widened a ban on military-style weapons, among other measures, the AP reported.
Kenneth Hall, who held aloft a sign with a swastika that read, in part, "gun control made the Holocaust possible," told the AP that the New York background check was an unnecessary move.
"I believe this is a publicity stunt for Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords," Hall told the wire service. "They say they're Second Amendment supporters. I don't believe they are."