Mark Kelly's campaign against "assault weapons" such as the AR-15 rifle has sparked a local backlash. On March 13, a Tucson, Arizona radio host published a photograph of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords holding an AR-15 rifle at a gun range. Giffords has since confirmed that the photograph is authentic.
James T. Harris, blogging at the website of "101.4 FM The Truth," wrote:
What is wrong with this picture? Absolutely nothing, and prior to the aggressive progressive opportunistic fear mongering in the wake of Sandy Hook, this picture would have raised no eyebrows and garnered little public attention.
However, in response to the exploitative political scheming of Mark Kelly, persons connected to Congresswoman Giffords released this photo in response to what they perceived to be her husband’s hypocrisy.
Subsequently, Breitbart News confirmed the authenticity of the image through law enforcement sources in Arizona, and obtained a copy of the photograph from a source who requested anonymity.
The latter source was present when the photograph was taken, and said that Giffords had requested it for campaign purposes during October 2010.
According to the source, the image sent to Breitbart News was cropped to protect the identity of the person on the right-hand side of the original photograph (to Giffords's left).
The source, who is a member of the law enforcement community, told Breitbart News:
"We were told she wanted to toughen her image. She asked to come out and she wanted to shoot a rifle. She had one of our guys out there to show her how to shoot an AR-15."
In January 2011, Giffords suffered near-fatal wounds in a mass shooting while meeting with constituents in Tucson. The perpetrator used a 9mm Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol.
Giffords and husband Mark Kelly have since formed an organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, to press for policy changes such as limiting the sale of "assault weapons, " including the AR-15.
Breitbart News reported last week that Kelly attempted to purchase an AR-15 from a gun store in Tucson earlier this month.
Likewise, the AR-15 that Giffords is shown holding in the image is a standard, semi-automatic civilian weapon, according to the source who saw it being taken.
The source saw a campaign official take the photograph, which was later provided to law enforcement personnel as a courtesy, according to the source.
The source says the existence of the photograph has been known in the local law enforcement community for a while: "I'm not the only one who knows about this photo."
Multiple law enforcement sources in Arizona told Breitbart News that Mark Kelly's campaign against "assault weapons" has generated resentment within the law enforcement community--and a desire that the photograph be made public.
The source who witnessed the photograph put it this way:
"Giffords and Kelly came across with a different demeanor in 2010. To me, it seems like they've done a complete 180 because of what happened. And with the latest controversy--with Mark Kelly doing what he did with the AR-15 stunt--this photo needs to be put out."
While Kelly declined to comment, Americans for Responsible Solutions spokesperson Jen Bluestein told Breitbart News: "Looks like the photo is cropped."
Bluestein noted that there are "many images of Gabrielle Giffords with guns," though she said she had not seen the image of the AR-15 before.
At 1:14 p.m. PDT, Giffords posted two images on her Facebook page with the following statement:
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. My work as Southern Arizona's Congresswoman frequently put me in close contact with some of the world's most powerful and deadly weapons - supporting police departments, advocating for the Border Patrol, standing up for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and supporting my constituents' and my own Second Amendment rights.
I grew up with guns, and I like owning them. So does my husband Mark. It's an interest we've shared ever since we met. It's part of my heritage as an Arizonan and it's my right as an American. Being able to shoot a gun is something I haven't been able to do since I was shot - because my right arm is paralyzed, and I'm less mobile than I was.
As I member of the House Armed Services Committee, I proudly spent a lot of time with our military, border patrol and state and local law enforcement. I guess the intention of those who have publicized these photos is to somehow call into question my belief that military style assault weapons should be more strongly regulated with background checks and other safeguards. I have never wavered in my support for those who serve our country. I fought to make sure they have the weapons and safety gear needed to carry out their mission, and proper health and mental care when their service ends.
Both sides of the gun violence debate usually miss the point. We don't have to choose between owning, using, and enjoying guns, on one hand, and preventing gun violence, on the other. Both sides need to come together to support commonsense solutions to gun violence, like keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people like the young man who shot me. That's why I'm fighting this fight. That's why I'm working to bring people together to support gun rights and reduce gun violence. I hope you join me.
Josiah Cantrall and Joel B. Pollak contributed to this article.