Gun Control Debate: Why Gabrielle Giffords is Our Hope For Civility


It may be hard for some to believe the Sandy Hook elementary school tragedy was almost two months ago, but the lingering effects of a mass shooting remain close to its victims forever; a prime example being former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The Democrat, who stepped down from her seat last year to recover from injuries she sustained from the 2011 Tucson massacre, spoke at last week's Senate Judiciary Committee's gun violence hearing, where she proved that something must be done to decrease gun violence in our country. 

"Thank you for inviting me here today," Giffords said alongside husband Mark Kelly. "This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you."

Of course, this isn't the first time post-Tucson shooting that Giffords has pushed for more gun control in a civil, non-hostile manner. Last month, she and Kelly launched, Americans for Responsible Solutions, a gun safety movement inspired by the Newtown tragedy. In a column for USA Today, Kelly and Giffords clarified that they support the Second Amendment but would like to see more responsible use of guns in the U.S.:

"As a Western woman and a Persian Gulf War combat veteran who have exercised our Second Amendment rights, we don't want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home. What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence."

Since its January debut, Americans for Responsible Solutions has already garnered more than 40,000 Facebook fans, perhaps in part because Giffords and Kelly have demonstrated nothing but poise and concern for the well-being of others in the aftermath of the shooting and haven't dwelled on their own misfortune. It wasn't until shooter Jared Lee Loughner's hearing that Kelly publicly explained to the killer how much damage he'd done. The astronaut put it in frank but civil terms:

"Gabby would trade her own life to bring back any one of those you savagely murdered on that day ... We are a people who can watch a young man like you spiral into murderous rampage without choosing to intervene before it is too late ... Mr. Loughner, pay close attention to this: Though you are mentally ill, you are responsible for the death and hurt you inflicted upon all of us on January 8th of last year ... You have decades upon decades to contemplate what you did. But after today. After this moment. Here and now. Gabby and I are done thinking about you."

As Kelly said, that was the first and last time Loughner would hear directly from Giffords and her husband, but they're far from done spreading their message and promoting safe gun use. Giffords and Kelly have handled their circumstances with grace and tried to use their awful situation to improve society, so if Giffords can't bring civility to this debate, which has been made messier post-Sandy Hook, nobody can.