Also see Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC (Political Party/527)
Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS) is the gun control advocacy group of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), and her husband Mark Kelly, a retired naval officer and NASA astronaut.
While Americans for Responsible Solutions describes its mission as addressing gun violence in communities across the country, the organization seeks to influence public opinion on gun violence through media campaigns and research studies as well as sponsoring local, state, and national legislation that restricts gun ownership rights protected by the Second Amendment.
Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords was first elected to the U.S. Congress in 2005. As a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Giffords represented Arizona’s 8th congressional district.
Giffords became prominent nationally after she was severely wounded in an assassination attempt. On January 8, 2011, Giffords held a constituent meet-and-greet at a Tucson, Arizona grocery store. The event turned deadly when 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner shot Giffords in the head, wounded several others, and killed six people including federal Judge John M. Roll, a 9-year-old girl, and an aide to Giffords.
After making a substantial recovery, Giffords resigned from Congress in January 2012 to focus on her health.
In 2013, Giffords and Kelly established Americans for Responsible Solutions with the goal “to encourage elected officials to stand up for solutions to prevent gun violence and protect responsible gun ownership by communicating directly with the constituents that elect them.” The organization endorses a series of gun control proposals, including using federal funds for gun control research, expanding background checks, and limiting due process protections enjoyed by those whose firearms the federal government might seek to confiscate.
Gun Control Legislation
In 2015, Americans for Responsible Solutions promoted the Oregon Firearms Safety Act, which mandated background checks for all firearms transfers in the state and made it illegal for those convicted of domestic violence to own a gun.
The group also collaborated with Oregon Coalition for Common Sense to advance Senate Bill 710, which will create a legal process for obtaining an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO). ERPO legislation was passed in California in 2014, Washington in November 2016, and similar versions were enacted in Connecticut and Indiana.
Legal experts have argued that the ERPO process fails to respect due process of law. The American Civil Liberties Union has not supported these policies as written, citing their concerns of inadequate due process procedures, the impact on civil liberties of those accused, and the concerning history of other protection orders – temporary policies such as these run the risk of becoming permanent under increased government oversight.
Though traditionally aligned with Democrats who support legislation to require expanded background checks and other gun control laws, Americans for Responsible Solutions has supported some Republicans who had backed gun control legislation.
2016 General Election
In the 2016 election, this included endorsing Republican Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania against his rival Democratic candidate Katie McGinty. The group also initially backed then-Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois against Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois), but retracted the endorsement of Kirk close to Election Day 2016. Toomey and Kirk, along with Senators Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona, were the only four Republicans to vote for failed gun control legislation in 2013.
During the 2016 election, the group spent over $800,000 opposing the re-election bid of Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte against New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan. Most notable was an advertisement that criticized Ayotte’s failure to support the Manchin-Toomey proposal to expand mandatory federal background checks to private-party firearm sales. Americans for Responsible Solutions also endorsed Democrats in other states such as Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto and Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet.
Americans for Responsible Solutions spearheaded an entire program on gun control at the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Giffords and Kelly addressed delegates on the future of gun control legislation and shared their public endorsement of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The 2016 Democratic Party platform on gun control included aggressive measures to expand background checks, repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) that protects firearm manufacturers and dealers who legally sell firearms that are misused in crime, and limit the sale of standard capacity ammunition magazines.
Giffords’ former chief of staff, Pia Carusone, serves as executive director for Americans for Responsible Solutions. Peter Ambler, who was Giffords’ top legislative aide, serves on the board as a strategic director. Hayley Zachary, Giffords former development director while in office, served as strategic director for ARS PAC.
Other board members listed include Peggy Egan and Steven Mostyn, before Mostyn’s death in 2017. Mostyn, a trial lawyer based in Houston and major Democratic donor, serves as Treasurer. He and his wife, Amber, have been key donors since Americans for Responsible Solutions’ inception in 2013, donating over $1 million in the first year alone to the organization.