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A conversation with Senator Flake

As a former member of Gabrielle Giffords’ staff and a survivor of the Tucson shooting, I’m on Capitol Hill today with a great group of fellow Organizing for Action volunteers, delivering petitions from supporters all across the country in support of common-sense gun violence prevention. We’ve been making the rounds, including meetings with Senator Dick Durbin and Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Mike Thompson.

It had been a really productive morning and we were on our way down the escalators out of the Capitol when I saw my senator, Jeff Flake, walking up the stairs right in front of us.

Pam Simon talks to Senator Flake

We already know each other, because he was very supportive of Congresswoman Giffords’ office. However, people in Arizona have been unhappy about his ‘no’ vote on the amendment that would have expanded background checks for gun sales. There’s been a lot of action on this issue in Arizona, so it was rather interesting running into him.

I was standing there in front of him with two other survivors of gun violence who introduced themselves–and to his credit he stopped and engaged in conversation with us for five or six minutes. We told him we were there to deliver 1.4 million petition signatures in favor of background checks for gun sales, and that the will of the people is behind us. The sense we got from him is that we’re still working on this. It’s not a closed door, so let’s engage. We said we’d love to sit down with him, look at the bill and talk about his concerns.

The bottom line is that he knows we’re out there and he knows we’re not going away. He’s taken a tremendous hit in polling—he even joked that he's now less popular than ‘pond scum.’ But we told him, ‘We don’t think you’re pond scum—we think you can come around to something that’s reasonable.’

The people who signed this petition are part of making the difference. When that many signatures are gathered, it shows how important this issue is to people. These people are working hard to represent us, and it absolutely shores them up. We said ‘We’ve got your back’ to members of Congress several times today, and they were all very welcoming, thanking us.

In fact, on a train below the Capitol, Senator John McCain rushed to board with us and I had the chance to say “Thank you!” for his courageous ‘yes’ vote on background checks for gun sales. Many of the folks on the train agreed, giving him a nice round of applause.

But we’re only delivering the petitions—it’s all across America that people are signing them. There is tremendous political will behind this, and these signatures are part of making a change.

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Pam Simon