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Giffords Moves Ahead, As Do Gun Violence Laws In Some States

After a bullet ripped through the left side of her brain twelve years ago, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) speaks mainly in stock phrases and short bursts, conveying meaning with her eyes or a boxer’s swing of her left arm, the one still fully mobile. In a New York Times interview at the headquarters of the gun safety group that bears her name, amid a string of mass shootings in California, asked what Americans should know about her, she closed her eyes and rocked slowly back and forth, delivering a speech unlike any she had given before the 2011 mass shooting that nearly killed her. “I’m getting better,” she said haltingly, laboring over each word. “Slowly, I’m getting better. Long, hard haul, but I’m getting better. Our lives can change so quickly. Mine did when I was shot. I’ve never given up hope. I chose to make a new start, to move ahead, to not look back. I’m relearning so many things — how to walk, how to talk — and I’m fighting to make the country safer. It can be so difficult. Losses hurt; setbacks are hard. But I tell myself: Move ahead.”

Giffords, 52, who goes by Gabby, is arguably the nation's most famous gun violence survivor. She came to the group’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., for an update and a strategy session. The timing underscored two competing truths: The gun safety movement she helps lead is stronger than ever as the gun violence epidemic is worsening. In part because of the efforts of Giffords, so-called red flag laws aimed at keeping guns away from potentially dangerous people have been enacted in 19 states and the District of Columbia; states adopted dozens of new gun safety laws in 2022 alone. Breaking nearly 30 years of partisan gridlock, Congress passed a modest package of gun safety measures last year. Democrats, who once feared the gun rights lobby, now run on gun safety platforms. However, the fallout from the Sandy Hook school massacre did not result in new gun safety laws at the federal level. And the package of gun safety measures passed by Congress last year received mixed reviews. Lawrence Gostin, an expert in public health law at Georgetown University, called it “weak sauce and window dressing,” adding that he feared Giffords would never win her fight.


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