Former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her ex-astronaut husband Mark Kelly announced this week that they will lead an effort to lobby Congress for stricter gun-control laws. The couple launched their political action committee, Americans for Sensible Solutions, on the second anniversary of the mass shooting of Giffords and 18 others in a Tucson, AZ parking lot. Six people died in the 2011 attack, which was perpetrated by a mentally ill man who obtained the guns used in the shooting legally.
Giffords has a unique set of credentials for this cause. Having barely survived the shooting, she was forced to relinquish her seat in the House of Representatives. As a politician from one of the country’s most pro-gun states, she has in the past boasted of her prowess with her Glock 9mm pistol (the same model her would-be assassin used). Her husband Mark Kelly, frequently described as an American hero, is himself no stranger to ordnance, having flown U.S. Navy combat missions in the Gulf War.
The pair are making their position clear: They are not seeking to revoke US citizens’ rights to bear arms and have emphasised that the Second Amendment can co-exist with responsible gun ownership. Distancing themselves from the National Rifle Association while at the same time reaching out to “the majority of NRA members,” they have grabbed the middle ground: in favor of guns, but with more effective gun-control laws.
THE PR VERDICT: “A” (PR Perfect) for Giffords and Kelly. Their impeccable credentials will make it tough for opponents to take them on publicly.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: Take the middle ground and let the others do the polarizing. In any debate, when views are extreme, the winner will be the persuasive advocate who courts the majority in the middle. Publicly defending current gun policy when up against a high-profile victim and her military husband is going to require finessed PR skills. The NRA may have just found their ground taken away from them.