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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Victim of Gun Violence: U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords Lobbying For Gun Laws

We look back at the 2011 tragic shooting rampage of former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords once more after the horrible mass murder in Oregon.

On January 8, 2011, Giffords and eighteen others were shot during a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Arizona, in the Tucson metropolitan area. Six people died, including federal District Court Chief Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman, one of Rep. Giffords' staffers; and a nine-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green. Giffords was holding the meeting, called "Congress on Your Corner" in the parking lot of a Safeway store when Jared Lee Loughner drew a pistol and shot her in the head before proceeding to fire on other people.

Gabrielle Giffords was shot through the head at point-blank range and entered the hospital in critical condition. Within 38 minutes, Giffords underwent emergency surgery, and part of her skull was removed to prevent further brain damage caused by swelling. She was placed into a medically induced coma to allow her brain to rest.

As Giffords' status improved, she began simple physical therapy and music therapy. On January 21, 2011, less than two weeks after the attack, her condition was deemed sufficiently stable for her to be released to Houston's Memorial Hermann Medical Center. A few days later she was moved to the center's Institute for Rehabilitation and Research to undergo a program of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

In October, Giffords went to Asheville, North Carolina to engage in intensive rehabilitation treatments. She continued to struggle with language and had lost 50 percent of her vision in both eyes.

On January 22, 2012, Giffords announced that she would resign from her congressional seat in order to concentrate on her recovery, but promised to return to public service in the future. She submitted her resignation on January 25 on the floor of the House in an emotional appearance; colleagues and the House leadership offered their tributes to her courage and strength.

Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote a book in 2014 titled Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe From Gun Violence "to rouse the long-overdue conversation" for gun control, a cause she has focused on since leaving office.

Giffords had owned a gun and had spoken frequently of the right of her constituents to carry guns before the tragedy. And, in the book, Gabrielle and Mark share their impassioned argument for responsible gun ownership and more responsible gun control laws, despite being gun owners and staunch supporters of the Second Amendment themselves.

Her book builds on an opinion piece she penned in 2013 in The New York Times after gun control legislation stalled in the U.S. Senate. This inaction came in the aftermath of the December 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut that left 20 first-graders and six staff members dead.

Giffords criticizes senators for failing to enact the measures, which she argued could have prevented future mass shootings, and she accuses them of being beholden to the gun rights lobby.

"'Enough' was one of the first words Gabby said to me after we learned about the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre," said Mark Kelly.

 "As Second Amendment supporters and gun owners ourselves, we hope our book rouses the long-overdue conversation our country needs to make responsible changes to our gun laws so that no more precious lives are lost," he added.

(David Schwartz. "Gabrielle Giffords, husband pen book urging gun laws to save lives."
Reuters. February 11, 2014.)

Giffords has been busy lobbying along with Kelly for tougher gun control laws, including expanded background checks and barring stalkers and domestic abusers from buying guns. They have formed a group aimed at curbing gun violence, Americans for Responsible Solutions, and have spent heavily on media advertisements and political campaigns in select states to press their efforts.

 Giffords's recovery has been widely chronicled since the shooting. She has even gone skydiving in southern Arizona to mark the third anniversary of the shooting. Giffords also told NBC's "Today" show she is working on her Spanish and again playing the French horn.

And, Giffords's work on gun control seems to be paying dividends.

Legislation addressing the role of gun violence in domestic abuse was signed by Delaware Governor Jack Markell on October 2, 2015.

Senate Bill 83 clarifies the process of relinquishing firearms after the issuance of a protection-from-abuse order, expands the definition of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, and adds federally-licensed firearms dealers located Delaware as an additional place for storage of relinquished firearms. The legislation was sponsored by Sen. Margaret Rose Henry, D-Wilmington.

Current law requires most Delawareans subject to protective orders issued by Family Court are already barred from owning or purchasing firearms. There is an exception in current law in the case of orders issued by a judge without allowing the accused to respond, which was the sticking point for the NRA.

The wrangling between lawmakers and the National Rifle Association, who was opposed to the original version of the bill, was over the section that would have required anyone issued with a PFA to turn over their firearms immediately. That language was removed in the substitute bill.

The legislation also expands the definition of “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” to include substantive dating relationships and people who have cohabited at the time of the offense or within 3 years prior to the offense.

Former Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords had lobbied the lawmakers earlier this year, saying that gun violence is a "women's issue." In a written statement, Giffords says about this about Senate Bill 83:

“Today is a victory for common sense and a victory for safer communities. In the face of calls from Delaware’s domestic violence survivors and public safety officials, Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a law that helps keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and protect vulnerable people and their families. And with Governor Markell’s signature now affixed to this bipartisan proposal, Delaware will be a safer place to live.”

(John Offrendo. "Markell signs Giffords-backed domestic abuse gun bill." The News Journal -- Delaware Online. October 02, 2015.)

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