By ALANNA DURKIN and STEVE PEOPLES
2014-08-09 03:01 AM
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) -- Gabby Giffords is trying to make gun control a part of the U.S. midterm election debate.
The former U.S. representative and survivor of a gunshot to the head will visit Maine on Saturday to raise money for a Democratic candidate for governor as her team prepares a multistate campaign to begin after Labor Day.
The appearance is among her first steps into electoral politics this year.
Giffords has become well-known advocate of gun control since she was shot in a 2011 attack in Arizona that left 13 wounded and six dead. The gunman was later diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, and Giffords remains partially paralyzed and struggles with her speech.
Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, also are meeting privately this weekend with Republican former President George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, at their nearby compound -- part of a continuing friendship between Kelly and the Bush family that began when both were based in Houston.
Giffords and Kelly have announced plans to focus on in 11 races before the November elections, seven for the Senate and four for the House of Representatives.
Giffords' organization, known as Americans for Responsible Solutions, is filming its first television ad this week. Aides are discussing the details for a national tour featuring Giffords and Kelly this fall.
"It's safe to say you're going to see a lot of money spent and activity in the next couple of months," said Pia Carusone, Giffords' closest aide. She said the organization will meet its goal of raising at least $20 million to spend on the November elections.
Giffords' group was created in part to counter the influence of the National Rifle Association, a group with millions of members nationwide that has aggressively opposed any new gun regulations, including an expansion of background checks. The NRA spent $3.4 million on lobbying last year.
Gun control efforts have gone nowhere in Congress, despite polls that show voters overwhelmingly support universal background checks. The lobbying of Giffords, parents of children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, school massacre and well-funded campaigns by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have run into aggressive opposition led by the NRA.
Giffords and Kelly have visited shooting ranges to highlight their support for gun ownership while calling for what they call "common-sense reforms," such as stronger background checks and better screening of potential gun buyers for mental illness.
Associated Press reporter Steve Peoples contributed to this report from Boston.