Gabrielle Giffords Three Years Later: “I’m Stronger Now”

By Cathleen Decker
Los Angeles Times

Three years ago, she was in the most mundane of places, a supermarket parking lot in Tucson.

She was engaged in the most meaningful act in political life, talking to the people who had sent her to Washington.

Then a bullet pierced Gabrielle Giffords’ brain.

The Arizona congresswoman was one of 18 who fell to bullets that day. Six would die.

Wednesday, she planned to jump from an airplane with a skydiving friend, another leap in her defiant reach for a life that came so close to ending. And she served notice that she will apply the determination that has marked her personal rehabilitation to the fight for gun restrictions that has been her public pursuit for the last year.

Giffords, now 43, left Congress in 2012 to gain more time for recovery; her seat is now held by Ron Barber, a former aide also shot that day.

One year ago, after the shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly formed Americans for Responsible Solutions, a group advocating what it terms reasonable answers to gun violence.

By some measures, her rehabilitation has gone better than her gun control efforts, but Giffords said Wednesday she would persist on both fronts.

“This past year, I have achieved something big that I’ve not spoken of until now,” she said in a commentary published Wednesday in The New York Times. “Countless hours of physical therapy, and the talents of the medical community have brought me new movement in my right arm. It’s fractional progress, and it took a long time, but my arm moves when I tell it to. Three years ago, I did not imagine my arm would move again. For so many days, it did not.

“I did exercise after exercise, day after day, until it did. I’m committed to my rehab and I’m committed to my country, and my resolution, standing with the vast majority of Americans who know we can and must be safer, is to cede no ground to those who would convince us the path is too steep, or we too weak.”

As is typical after a high-profile shooting, Giffords’ wounding propelled a raft of predictions that gun restrictions would be tightened.

As is also typical, not much happened. Not much happened in the year since Newtown, either, as Giffords acknowledged; gun control proposals made by the Obama administration have largely foundered in Congress.

“Predictably, Washington disappointed us during the first year of our work with the organization,” she wrote. “Many of you were outraged at the failure of the Senate to pass the background checks bill, and so was I. But I continue to be inspired by my fellow Americans. By any measure, they’re with us …. We’re not daunted. We know that the gun lobby, which makes money by preventing sensible change, relies on dramatic disappointments to wound us, reduce our power, push us back on our heels.”

“Our fight is a lot more like my rehab. Every day, we must wake up resolved and determined.”



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