Breitbart.com's AWR Hawkins labeled prominent gun safety advocate Gabby Giffords a “human shield” for the gun safety movement. In January 2011, Giffords, then a member of Congress, was wounded during mass shooting at a constituent event in Tucson, Arizona, that left six dead and 13 injured by gunfire.
Hawkins' latest attack on Giffords follows his controversial March 4 article that criticized Giffords for advocating for background checks on gun sales because the gunman that shot her passed a background check to obtain his weapon. Giffords is the founder of gun safety group Americans for Responsible Solutions which advocates for background checks and measures to reduce illegal firearms trafficking.
Hawkins' March 4 article received widespread attention and condemnation after the National Rifle Association sent a Tweet with the article's headline: “Gabby Giffords: Everyone Should Have to Pass Background Check My Attacker Passed.” Hawkins is a frequent guest on NRA News.
Critics of Hawkins noted that the fact that Giffords was shot by someone who passed a background check does not preclude the argument that in general requiring background checks on all gun sales would improve public safety. As Slate's Alec MacGillis wrote, Giffords “is not devoting herself to the cause of expanding background checks because that measure would have stopped [the Tucson gunman], but because that measure is the one that police and criminal justice experts believe would have the biggest impact on reducing gun violence overall.”
In a March 8 article, Hawkins returned to his nonsensical argument, claiming his March 4 article “showed that [Giffords'] claims that background checks are a way of 'stopping violence' can't even survive Giffords' personal experience. After all, her attacker, Jared Loughner, passed a background check to acquire the gun with which he attacked her in January 2011.” Labeling her a “human shield -- the gun control representative who could do and say what she wanted without facing any real pressure to prove her claims were true,” Hawkins also wrote, “Here's the problem -- background checks don't work, and Giffords' attacker is living proof of that.”
Despite a loophole that allows a significant number of gun transactions to occur without a background check, the national background check system has stopped more than 2 million gun sales to prohibited purchasers over the past two decades.