Aug 1, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Gabby Giffords has a decade-old lament

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords is seen amid a memorial to shooting victims erected on the National Mall.
Gabby Giffords (second from left) is seen in April amid a memorial to shooting victims placed on the National Mall. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Ten years after she returned to Congress, former Rep. Gabby Giffords tells Axios it's "a huge disappointment" the House and Senate have been unable "to pass even the most basic, commonsense gun safety laws."

Why it matters: In the decade since the Arizona Democrat and 17 others were shot — with six killed, including an aide — outside a supermarket in Tucson, there have been more than 200 mass shootings in the United States.

  • "Many people don’t know how dangerously weak our federal gun laws are," Giffords told Axios in an email interview. "Some people think that background checks are already required for every gun sale, which is not the case."
  • "It’s past time for Congress to find the courage to act on gun violence," she added.
  • Her attacker used a semi-automatic pistol with a 33-round magazine.

Between the lines: The push to strengthen the nation's gun laws was thrust back into the spotlight in March after a pair of mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado, and Atlanta.

  • Lawmakers scrambled to propose legislation that would enhance federal legislation.
  • But, as history has shown, changing federal gun laws is one of the most polarizing issues in America — even now, while Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House.
  • After weeks passed with no action, finding renewed urgency to galvanize votes in favor of substantial measures proved impossible.

Giffords, 51, was shot in the head at point-blank range and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Despite being near death, she staged a recovery and returned to Congress on Aug. 1, 2011, to cast a vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling.

  • She ultimately submitted her resignation during an appearance on the House floor on Jan. 25, 2012.
  • Giffords has since become a prominent gun safety advocate.

The former congresswoman blames the failure to tighten the nation's gun laws on the country's political polarization and misconceptions about what "gun safety" truly means.

  • Her husband, Democrat Mark Kelly, is now a U.S. senator from Arizona, and she says it's "scary" to see how partisan Congress is compared to when she was a member — pointing to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack as "the most obvious example."
  • Giffords remarked about how their roles reversed, with her being terrified for his safety nearly 10 years to the day after she was shot.
  • "We need to combat the increasing polarization and partisanship in our country if we want to make meaningful progress on a whole host of critical issues," she told Axios.
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