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August 22, 2019

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Gabby Giffords brings gun violence survivors together in Las Vegas to discuss action

Gun Violence Roundtable

Steve Marcus

Capt. Mark Kelly and his wife former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords, speak during a gun violence roundtable with gun violence survivors, student activists, and community leaders at UNLV Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018.

Gun Violence Roundtable

Robyn Wolfe, an Oct. 1 shooting survivor whose husband Bill Wolfe Jr. was killed, is embraced by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Launch slideshow »

A feather that landed on the shoulder of a parent whose daughter died in the Oct. 1 mass shooting is pressed inside a book of memories kept by the family — memories that can inspire pain, as well as action, they said.

Chris and Debbie Davis are filling the book of memories so they and their daughter Neysa Tonks’ three children — 15-year-old Greyson, 18-year-old Braxton and 25-year-old Kaden — will have something to look back on in the years to come.

After a roundtable discussion at UNLV today with shooting survivor and former Arizona Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband, retired Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, the Davises said that the feather is one of the many signs they’ve seen from their daughter since her death.

Mynda Smith, Tonks’ sister, spotted the feather and handed it to Debbie Davis, who pocketed it. Debbie Davis said that since the shooting, her family has been inspired to find out more about how to prevent gun violence.

“I look at Capt. Kelly and Gabby and her strength and what she endured, and I need to vote,” she said. “Fifty-eight lives should not have been gone for nothing. And we can’t say that the sacrifice was worth it, but it happened. So let’s not let that be in vain but find a way to make that help us to be better.”

Kelly voiced a similar opinion. “We can do better as a country,” he said.

And Giffords noted that “stopping gun violence takes courage.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running for GOP U.S. Sen. Dean Heller’s seat, said she saw Debbie Davis take the feather during the memorial. Rosen said these are the kind of keepsakes that symbolize the importance of passing gun reform.

“That’s why we’re here and it’s why we’re fighting, because that feather’s everything to you,” Rosen said.

Kelly, Giffords and Democratic candidates for office stressed the importance of voting for members of the House and Senate who will act on gun reform.

Two of Nevada’s congressional seats and one Senate seat up for election in November could help tip the balance for Democrats or deepen the Republican party’s advantage.

Gun control bills, including bans on high-capacity magazine and bump stocks, have failed to move forward in the GOP-controlled Congress. The House did pass a bill calling for concealed carry permits to be recognized across state lines, folding in provisions that shore up reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

GOP U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, who is running against Democrat Clint Koble in Nevada’s GOP-heavy northern district, supported the reciprocity measure.

Amodei said last year that he might have voted for the reciprocity measure if it had come up by itself, but the bill that was ultimately brought forward for a vote also took “care of some other housekeeping stuff to make the background check, not registration, background check stuff stronger.”

U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, who is running against Joyce Bentley in the heavily blue 1st Congressional District, said after the roundtable with Giffords that the Trump administration’s proposed bump stock regulations are more vulnerable to attacks in court and are just a way to stall the process while continuing to block bills in Congress.

The National Rifle Association and President Donald Trump have pointed out that under the Obama administration, bump stocks, used in the Oct. 1 Strip shooting that killed 58 people and left more than 800 injured, were determined to be outside the regulatory authority of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Titus said banning the devices through regulation without amending the laws that regulate items such as machine guns would open up the possibility of lawsuits.

“The ATF said themselves, ‘We’ve looked at it; we don’t have the authority; we can’t do it.’ That’s why we need congressional action,” Titus said. “That’s why we introduced the bill. Now they’re pretending like they can, because this pushes it out another year, six months, who knows, and then while a lawsuit is pending, nothing goes into effect.”

Also at the roundtable were Democratic candidates Susie Lee, who faces Danny Tarkanian in the 3rd Congressional District, and former 4th Congressional District Rep. Steven Horsford, whose GOP opponent Cresent Hardy also previously held the seat.

The Davises said they’re working on becoming more educated about gun control while also stepping in to help children of the other victims.

Braxton recently started college at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. The Davises reached out to the other victims’ families as part of their grieving, and realized that many others were dealing with the struggle of sending a surviving child to college without the help of their parent or parents.

The couple started a college scholarship fund for the Oct. 1 shooting victims’ 55 children under the age of 21 at the time of the attack. The Nevada Community Foundation is managing the funds.

“We hope to be the inspiration that helps them not let this tragedy define them but motivates them to make a difference by being educated and inspired to make this country a better place,” Debbie Davis said.