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The human toll of gun violence will be front and center at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, with former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords joining more than two dozen shooting victims, their family members, first responders and others who will attend the speech as guests of Democratic lawmakers.
But some gun rights advocates aren’t pleased with the guest list. Gun Owners of America accused congressional Democrats of playing politics and called on Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to counter Obama’s legislative proposals on guns when he delivers the Republican response to the speech.
“We think it’s disgusting to use tragedy as a prop,” said Mike Hammond, the group’s legal counsel.
At least one Republican is bringing a well-known gun rights supporter to the speech as his guest. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, invited rock musician and outspoken gun rights advocate Ted Nugent. Stockman also intends to “fact check” Obama in real time on Twitter — including on the issue of guns — during the president’s speech, spokesman Donny Ferguson said.
The Democrats’ coordinated effort is intended “to keep the momentum up on addressing gun laws by sending a powerful message to lawmakers when the nation is focused on the State of the Union address,” said Jonathon Dworkin, a spokesman for Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., who spearheaded the initiative in the House.
Giffords, the former Arizona Democrat who was shot in the head during a meeting with constituents in Tucson two years ago, will attend the speech as the guest of her former aide, Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ariz., who was wounded in the same attack. Giffords’ husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, also is expected to attend, according to a statement from their new gun control advocacy group, Americans for Responsible Solutions.
The couple has emerged as leading advocates for tougher gun laws after the Dec. 14 shooting of 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
At least 23 other House Democrats and at least four Senate Democrats will bring other guests who have been personally affected by gun violence, according to Langevin’s office and Senate press releases. The list includes several victims, family members and public officials affected by the shooting in Newtown, which has reignited the national debate over firearms.