New gun group gets foothold in Ohio

The group opened chapters in Cleveland and Columbus so far and aims to establish one soon in Cincinnati, said ARS executive director Pia Carusone, who noted ARS now counts 18,700 Ohioans among its 500,000 members.

Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, founded ARS in January, shortly after the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that left 26 children and teachers dead. Giffords was shot in the head by a mentally ill man at a constituent meet-and-greet event in Tuscon, Arizona in January 2011. The Tuscon shooting killed six and wounded 12.

“People are fed up. That’s the message I’ve taken away over the past six months,” Carusone said. “After Newtown, the sense is we have to be able to do something about this.”

Americans for Responsible Solutions is positioning itself as a pro-gun group that advocates for sensible restrictions, Carusone said. The first priority is a federal law mandating universal background checks for all gun purchases, Carusone said. Currently, many states, including Ohio, allow purchases without background checks at gun shows. An amendment to a bill that would have expanded background checks failed in April to win enough support in the U.S. Senate. Ohio’s senators split on the issue: Republican Rob Portman voted no while Democrat Sherrod Brown voted yes.

Jim Irvine, spokesman for Buckeye Firearms Association, said universal background checks would lead to mandated gun registration, which he said the public opposes and it wouldn’t be effective. The background check proposal failed because in part it would have applied to private sales between individuals, he said.

“You can’t solve a criminal problem by restricting the rights of law abiding citizens. You need to focus on the criminal problem,” Irvine said.

ARS, which consists of both a non-profit advocacy group and a political action committee, has raised $6.5 million and built up half a million members in six months.

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