Once an outspoken champion of gun rights, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has now changed her position and is becoming a vocal advocate for stricter gun laws following the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The Democrat, overwhelmingly re-elected in November with more than 70 percent of the vote, now favors an assault-weapon ban and the closing of loopholes that allow for gun shows to sell guns without first conducting background checks on the buyers.
The shift is in stark contrast to the once-perceived moderate who, as a congresswoman representing a traditionally conservative district around Albany, had boasted of keeping two rifles underneath her bed.
"If I want to protect my family, if I want to have a weapon in the home, that should be my right," Gillibrand said in a 2009 interview with Newsday
. "I grew up in a house where my mom owns about eight guns."
"It's a false debate," said the junior New York senator about the gun-control debate. "It's political rhetoric that's sucking you in to believe that hunters owning a gun or an American citizen who wants to protect his home owning a gun somehow increases gun violence."
As a result of her prior position on gun rights, the National Rifle Association gave her an A rating.
Reacting to Gillibrand's shift on gun rights, Independent Firearms Owners Association Richard Feldman told the New York Post
: "I think gun owners probably view her in ways they view Mitt Romney. How do you trust someone when they change their stance and politics?"
Gillibrand's office responded on Tuesday by saying "her old [upstate congressional] district 'did not [have] the same issues of gang and gun violence' as other parts of the state."
Two days after the shooting in Connecticut, Gillibrand penned an Op-Ed article in the New York Daily News
explaining her evolving position on gun laws.
"Gun violence became very personal to me when my friend, Rep. Gabby Giffords, was nearly killed at the hands of a mentally ill gunman while conducting the same type of 'Congress at Your Corner' event I have done dozens of times in my career," she wrote.
"As a mother, and a lawmaker, I will not allow these tragedies, and the roughly 34 gun violence-related deaths that happen every day, to go unanswered. We can no longer sweep the conversation about access to guns under the rug; it is time to demand real solutions."
"As someone who believes in the Constitution and an individual's right to bear arms, I believe the first place we should look for answers is in the Second Amendment itself," continued Gillibrand. "The words 'well-regulated' prove the Founding Fathers themselves understood the need to have reasonable limits."
Gillibrand is considered by many political insiders as a possible Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential election. If she does run, she will likely face off against outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her predecessor as senator from New York.
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