On July 1, 1993, an assault weapon rampage at a law firm, Pettit & Martin, in downtown San Francisco ended with eight dead and six wounded, sending shockwaves through the Bay Area’s legal community. Within days of the shooting, a group of local attorneys responded by forming the Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV).
LCAV immediately got to work, mobilizing the Bay Area legal community to support the enactment of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban. In the early years of the organization, we focused resources on reforming California’s gun laws by providing free legal assistance to cities across the state. In 1993, when Giffords Law Center was founded, 5,500 Californians died each year to gun violence. At the time, California’s gun laws were relatively weak and the state’s gun death rate was substantially higher than the national average. Over the last 24 years, California has comprehensively strengthened its gun violence prevention laws under our leadership and reduced the gun death rate by nearly 60%–a rate over twice the national average.
This lifesaving work spoke for itself and our success in California led other states to seek our help. In 1999, we began extending our services to include nationwide assistance to advocates, lawmakers, and community leaders. The tremendous need for our expertise led to our organization’s expansion over the years, and in 2012, we rebranded to better reflect the national breadth of our work.
Our work has expanded dramatically over the last two decades to include producing detailed gun violence prevention research and analysis, filing amicus briefs in critical Second Amendment cases across the country, and working with lawmakers and advocates to craft and promote legislation that will reduce gun violence and save lives.
Today, we are focused on executing and supporting innovative approaches to our national gun violence crisis, in addition to continuing the proven legislative and Second Amendment work in which we are experts. We build partnerships with community-based organizations working on the ground to disrupt cycles of violence, with the goal of supporting and highlighting remarkable programs that can address the epidemic rates of gun violence plaguing our communities. When these programs work in tandem with the gun safety legislation we fight for, we see transformative and systemic results.
In 2016, we announced an exciting opportunity to further expand our influence by merging with Americans for Responsible Solutions, led by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, forming a new force for gun safety legislation, education, research, and advocacy that stretches from coast to coast. Joining forces with ARS is the natural evolution of so many successful joint initiatives, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity for greater impact.
In 2017, we became the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the 501(c)(3) arm of the Giffords organization. As two organizations founded by gun violence survivors, we collectively have the courage and commitment it will take to bring Americans together to find unity and challenge the forces that threaten our safety.