TUCSON, Ariz. -- Tuesday was not just a day for Tucson to remember the victims of the deadly shooting that severely injured then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. It was also a day when residents could see firsthand the nation's gun debate play out in a busy parking lot outside a city police station.
On one side was a councilman who supports gun control leading an effort to give $50 grocery store gift cards to anyone who turned in firearms to police. On the other was an event organized by a pro-gun state senator that turned into an open, unregulated and legal marketplace for firearms.
"We have a fundamental hole in the private sales of guns. You can walk up right in front of a cop and buy a gun -- no background check, nothing," said Councilman Steve Kozachik. "How much more flawed can the system be?"
The people who bought guns from each other declined repeated requests for comments. The senator didn't stay at his event but earlier said he was angered by the timing of Mr. Kozachik's event and what he felt was its too-cheap buyback payment.
The dueling gun-buyback programs -- and the annual ringing of bells to remember the January 20111 attack's six dead and 13 wounded, including Ms. Giffords -- came as the congresswoman and her husband announced that they were forming a political action committee aimed at preventing gun violence.
Ms. Giffords and husband Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, discussed the effort in a USA Today op-ed and an ABC News interview. The interview also provided a glimpse of Ms. Giffords' long recovery since being shot in the head two years ago.
She still undergoes speech and physical therapy and practices yoga. She has a service dog named Nelson who helps her keep balance and guides her. She recently gained more movement in her right foot and can walk faster. She still struggles with her vision, especially on her periphery.
Ms. Giffords struggled to speak in complete sentences but provided several one-word answers to anchor Diane Sawyer in describing her recovery and response to the shootings in Tucson and Connecticut. She used the word "enough" to react to the thought of children getting killed in a classroom. She said "daggers" to recount her tense, face-to-face encounter with her shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, at his sentencing in November. She said "sad" to describe his mental illness. She is frustrated that her recovery has not progressed more quickly.
Mr. Kelly and Ms. Giffords wrote in the op-ed that their Americans for Responsible Solutions initiative would help raise money to support greater gun control efforts and take on the powerful gun lobby. "Achieving reforms to reduce gun violence and prevent mass shootings will mean matching gun lobbyists in their reach and resources," the couple wrote. They said it will "raise funds necessary to balance the influence of the gun lobby."
There was already some concern among gun-control advocates that they were losing momentum they hoped to have after the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead in December. Congress was already occupied with budget concerns.
The National Riffle Association spent at least $24 million in the 2012 election cycle, including $16.8 million through its political action committee and $7.5 million through its affiliated Institute for Legislative Action. By comparison, the Brady Campaign, among the most vocal champions of gun control, spent around $5,800. The NRA was also dominant in direct lobbying of lawmakers, Through July 1, it spent $4.4 million to lobby Congress, compared with the Brady Campaign's $60,000.