Former Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head three years ago, spoke out in a New York Times op-ed about overcoming paralysis and struggling to pass gun control legislation that she believes will stop others from experiencing the same tragedy that rocked her life.
Giffords, 43, was shot at point-blank range while speaking to her constituents at a supermarket in January 2011. The following year she resigned from her Congressional post because of related medical issues. Since then, Giffords and her 49-year-old husband -- former astronaut Mark Kelly -- have founded the super PAC Americans for Responsible Solutions to push for stricter gun control laws across the country.
In an op-ed for the New York Times on Wednesday, Giffords not only describes the painful but rewarding process of physical therapy, but also compares the restless struggle to her crusade against lax gun laws. Giffords, who is herself a gun owner, argues that the United States must enact stronger preventive measures to ensure that firearms are regulated without punishing nonviolent owners.
Giffords eloquently lays out her plan to ensure that responsible gun owners keep their firearms while preventing them from falling into dangerous hands:
Enhance enforcement by passing a law making gun trafficking a serious crime with stiff penalties. Make it illegal for all stalkers and all domestic abusers to buy guns. Extend mental health resources into schools and communities, so the dangerously mentally ill find it easier to receive treatment than to buy firearms. And even as we lay the groundwork for expanding background checks, pass strong incentives for states to ensure the background-check system contains the records of the most dangerous and violent among us.
Giffords says that she knows the road to her vision will be difficult -- last April, for example, the Senate killed a bipartisan bill to expand background checks on firearm purchases -- but she plans to continue fighting for reform as long as possible.
“Every day we will recruit a few more allies, talk to a few more elected officials, convince a few more voters,” Giffords writes in language that echoes her own struggles with physical therapy. “Some days the steps will come easily; we’ll feel the wind at our backs. Other times our knees will buckle. We’ll tire of the burden. I know this feeling. But we’ll persist.”
Though Giffords’ op-ed never shies away from the difficult challenges she faces physically, mentally and politically, she ends the piece by sharing a piece of positive news: after three years of physical therapy, Giffords has regained the limited use of her previously paralyzed right arm.
“Countless hours of physical therapy -- and the talents of the medical community -- have brought me new movement in my right arm,” Giffords writes. “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.”
Eric Brown is an IBTimes reporter who eats far too much pizza. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia, and currently resides in Brooklyn.