On tour, Giffords' actions speak on gun control

Former Arizona Congresswoman nearing end of a seven-state-in-seven-day tour across America to generate momentum for federal legislation to expand background checks on gun purchases.
Associated Press
Jul 7, 2013


Thirty months after she was shot through the head, former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords sits in a New Hampshire restaurant facing parents of children killed in the nation's latest school shooting.

They are here to talk political strategy, but Giffords doesn't say much. She doesn't have to.

The 43-year-old Democrat has become the face of the fight for gun control — a woman now known as much for her actions as her words as she recovers from a 2011 attack that forever changed her life and ended six others. Giffords has already traveled more than 8,000 miles this week, her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, at her side, encouraging political leaders from Alaska to Maine to have the courage to defy the National Rifle Association.

"I don't think any of us thought this was going to be easy," Kelly tells three parents of children killed in the Newton, Conn., school shootings, with Giffords next to him, nodding her agreement. "This is not going to be a quick fix. But we're trying."

The couple is nearing the end of a seven-state-in-seven-day tour across America, meeting with allies and opponents alike to generate momentum for federal legislation that would expand background checks on gun purchases. It's a scaled-back version of a broad legislative package to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines proposed in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting rampage that left 20 children dead. But even scaled back, the measure was defeated in the Senate in April and has stalled in a divided Congress now preparing for its summer recess.

As Giffords' tour stretched into Maine on Saturday, the couple shared a private lunch with former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, at their estate in Kennebunkport, Maine.

It's unclear if Giffords and Kelly discussed gun control with the Bushes, who are personal acquaintances.

Giffords' cross-country trek is the centerpiece of a summertime campaign designed to pressure elected officials in their own backyards. At the same time, her recently formed super PAC and related nonprofit group have ambitious plans to expand their political clout through the 2014 midterm elections and beyond. Organizers say that the group, known as Americans for Responsible Solutions, is expected to raise at least $20 million to fuel paid television ads and political activities to coincide with the next election, the next gun control vote or both.

So far, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has bankrolled much of the campaign to expand background checks through his own organization, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, pouring more than $12 million into advertising designed to pressure lawmakers in places like New Hampshire, Arizona and Arkansas.

But this week, Giffords and Kelly are playing a more personal role. They are eating pie, sharing hugs and having frank conversations to connect with voters in traditional gun-owning states whose leaders have been largely reluctant to support expanded background checks in the face of NRA opposition.

And they are shooting guns to help make their point.

Kelly, a former Navy pilot whose parents were police officers, purchased a new rifle — he said it was his sixth or seventh gun — at the Village Gun Shop in New Hampshire's north country on Friday. He waited less than five minutes for a background check and later tested his Savage .30-06 bolt-action rifle at a nearby shooting range. Giffords joined him at a Nevada shooting range earlier in the week, firing a gun for the first time since a mentally ill man took aim at her and opened fire in a Tucson, Ariz., shopping center as she met with constituents. Jared Lee Loughner, 24, was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years, after he pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges in the case.

It's an attack that Kelly refers to often, using phrases like, "what happened to Gabby" and "when my wife was shot." The couple is traveling with a handful of guns packed in a suitcase — all for personal use on their trip.

Sandy Holz, the shop's owner in Whitefield, N.H., says she's reluctant to endorse broad gun control legislation but would support a bill to requiring background checks for sales at gun shows and on the Internet, as the failed Senate bill would have done.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll in mid-May found that 67 percent of Americans felt the Senate wrongly rejected the background check bill.

A Pew Research Center poll conducted in early May found 81 percent favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, support that transcends party lines. Another 73 percent of respondents said that if the background check bill were brought up for another vote, Congress should pass it.

But there is little sign of movement in Washington.

Despite Giffords' and Bloomberg's continued lobbying, none of the bill's proponents report winning a single new vote since the measure's April defeat. If anything, their task may have grown more difficult since the death last month of Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who supported the checks. He has been replaced by Republican Sen. Jeff Chiesa, whose view on the subject is unclear.

Giffords and Kelly say they will not give up despite obvious health issues.

More than two years after the attack, Giffords travels with nurses and a speech therapist, a rarely used wheelchair in tow. Her right leg and arm are partially paralyzed. She walks on her own, her right leg dragging slightly, and she climbs stairs, often with Kelly or a staff member holding her left hand.

The brain injury has also affected her ability to speak.

Giffords offers enthusiastic, but slightly slurred stump speeches on the tour, in a halting style that sometimes brings tears to the eyes of her audience — and her staff.

"We must never stop fighting. Fight. Fight. Fight. Be bold, be courageous, the nation is counting on you," she said at a Portland, Maine press conference.

The entire speech, just 62 words, lasted less than two minutes.

The cross-country tour is run with the efficiency and detail of a presidential campaign, with schedules planned down to the minute. Surrounded by a handful of young staffers and her service dog, Nelson, Giffords and Kelly use private planes and at times helicopters, visiting venues usually frequented by politicians.

After her Friday speech, Giffords and Kelly stopped for ice cream. As she often does, Giffords expressed herself more with body language than words as they decided what to eat. She tapped her finger on the menu and said, "Apple pie."

She was greeted warmly by a steady flow of customers and restaurant staff, offering them a hug and responding to their praise with a simple "Thank you very much."

They visited New Hampshire to help remind voters that Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte opposed the background check measure.

"Sen. Ayotte respects Congresswoman Giffords and her brave recovery," Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said, adding that Ayotte favors a Republican-backed bill that emphasizes improvements to the mental health system.

Giffords and Kelly know they will face continued opposition, although it comes in all forms on the tour.

Giffords exited one event through a back entrance to avoid a small group of protesters, including one carrying an AR-15 assault rifle. Shortly before they left, the man appeared to be napping in the shade with his gun at his side.

"Apparently, he got tired," Kelly later said at the dinner with Newtown parents. "You can't sleep when you've got your loaded AR-15 next to you. This is not responsible."



The Big Dog's back

sam, what in pray tell does that have to do with zim? He wasn't in his home, he was out pretending to be a police officer. He couldn't cut the mustard to be a real cop, so he was a wannabe cop. I stand by my calling him a whimp, and any other pretend cop gunning down unarmed children.



The Big Dog's back

Are you officially changing your screen name on here from contango to grumpy?


Re: "Are you officially changing your screen name on here from contango to grumpy?"

Off-topic BIG DERP.

The Big Dog's back

Oh, OK, you're sticking with both.


Re: "Oh, OK, you're sticking with both."



And if all the gang bangers in Chicago, Detroit, LA and on and on didn't have courage builders? Fat chance on that in our lifetime!


little dog.......If the Navy Seals didn't have guns, OBL wouldn't of been captured and killed.

The point that you failed to realize that you just made is that crazy people kill people, not the gun(s) they own.

Nice try.

The Big Dog's back

Was George Zimmerman crazy?


Re: "Was George Zimmerman crazy?"

Off-topic "CRAZY" AGAIN DERPY. You want this article:


The Big Dog's back

Who's talking about disarming the military or anyone for that matter?


What a Stupid statement. Maybe Zimmerman would be dead with his head smashed repeatedly into the cement. Who knows? You?


If Trayvon Martin wouldn't have been suspended from school for getting caught with Marijuana there; he wouldn't have been out of the house running the streets like the thug he died as! I'm sick of racial divide when murder happens in this country. Black men and women kill other enthic people too! Everyday in fact! Poor Trayvon Martin...died young before he grew up to be a bigger thug! This shouldn't have even went to court. If it wasn't for all the media hype, it would have been local news! It's not a racial thing...it's a gun thing! Liberal news hounds will spin it anyway the public wants to sell that story. So now we have a racial and gun control issue to deal with because of it. Let the riots begin! Thousands on food stamps and Obama welfare are counting on it! Lock and load store keepers!

The Big Dog's back

Talk about creepy crackers. Wasn't there a cereal named that?


In the middle of their "gun control" crusade, the husband was outed by a firearms dealer in the Phoenix area after ordering a number of firearms including at least one assault rifle. Remember folks, do as they say, not as they do.

These two are proven phonies. But the media loves printing stories about them, but rarely prints both sides of the Giffords-Kelly "do as I say, not as I do" story.

Don't believe me, read for yourself-

Keep in mind that once this became public he swore he was not going to keep the guns...he only did it to show how quick and easy it was to get an assault rifle EVEN THOUGHT HE WOULD BE REQUIRED TO WAIT 20 DAYS FOR THE FIREARM!!!

Look, I am not saying that all firearms should be sold to all people at all the time, there should be some limits and controls. What I am saying is that phonies like these two should be publicly outed for the frauds that they are!


makes about as much sense as a MADD member drinking and driving just to show how easy it is.


The article would have a point if Giffords and her husband advocated total gun control. As is, they want to restrict magazine size, register all guns, restrict some, and have more extensive background checks. None of which would keep her from having a gun and shooting it.

I think they go too far in what they advocate... but that article and the one in the post above it doesn't show them doing anything they are advocating against. From what they say they are not against all guns at all costs. They want more gov't control, which I am not for, but that article doesn't show them doing anything they have advocated against.

Fortunately the last time Congress voted on these things the vote wasn't even close to passing. Let these folks try to stir the pot, they have the right to do so. It keeps them occupied, and in their own minds, relevant.

My biggest criticism of the article is the term oversize or large capacity magazine. 15-18 round magazines for semiauto handguns are standard size and 30-33 round magazines are standard size for AR type rifles. Some people try to influence low information people as to what is standard and what is high capacity, and LIE about what has been the standard size for decades.


I agree with KnuckleDragger 100% on this. If all these so called laws that they want to put in place "to keep us safe from guns" really would work .... why aren't there laws on drug abuse and robbery and killing? Oh wait, that's right .... there ARE laws on those issues .... Oh yeah, but the criminals forget to obey them. And when making a gun, ammunition, or heck, even a steak knife illegal or harder to get .... the only ones that are going to have that item will be the criminals. You know ... the ones who DON'T OBEY THE LAWS ..... (look up definition of a criminal that should say it all for ya). Only criminals having them ..... that should scare the living crap out of anyone.


This is parallel to the event when Reagan was shot. Give swift harsh punishment to the shooter. Leave the weapon out of the equation. Most hard-working Americans want criminals eliminated in a quick fashion. (Remember the Brady bill)


You can bet that when the Giffords go on tour , their bodyguards are packing ! I want to be able to protect myself , but I can't afford to pay for bodyguards. We need to protect ourselves from the criminals who don't give a hoot about the laws.


These two are a joke. Why were they NOT crusading BEFORE she was shot? Why was this NOT an issue till something happened? OH yeah...KNEE jerk reactions. What happens with knee jerk reactions? Things are blown OUT OF PROPORTION! Things are done without thinking about the outcome. Things are done without thought. Yes something needs to be done. But the things they are trying to do will NOT stop the criminals, will NOT stop Sandy Hook type shootings, will NOT stop Gifford type shootings, will NOT stop Aurora type shootings. Wake up people.

The Big Dog's back

So a woman who was shot in the head by a right wingnut and is paralyzed the rest of her life is a joke? We know who the joke is.


Re: "We know who the joke is."

YES - it's DERPY!!!

"Caitie Parker, who attended high school and college with Loughner, described his political views prior to 2007 as 'left wing, quite liberal,' 'radical.'"



Yes....she never worried about guns until she was shot? She never worried about violence until she was shot? Never worried about school violence until she was shot? Yes I am sorry, I think it is a joke. Seems no one worries about things until AFTER it happens. IF she was such the HERO, such the PROTECTOR, such the ADVOCATE for gun violence she would have been PREACHING BEFORE SHE WAS SHOT! There was "right wingnut" violence before she was shot. Do you remember the Oklahoma City bombing? OR if you want to use "gun violence" try the Major Muslim in the Fort Hood Shooting, or the shooting in Aurora, CO at the movie theater. I am sorry she was shot. I am sorry ANYONE is shot. There are innocent people shot, injured, killed everywhere. But the agenda that they are pushing, congress is pushing, the president is pushing is not going to help. The criminals, the crazy people, those who want to kill will still find a way. The only thing it will do is STOP those who follow laws.

Free Man

You can sleep very well when you've got your loaded AR-15 next to you.


I agree that mental health needs to be addressed more than gun control. Guns are not required to commit mass killings. We've seen that. I really have a problem with these 2 stomping for this. Just seems hypocritical. do as I say not as I do.


I thought Giffords took an oath to defend the Constitution. According to the Constitution, if two residents of the same state want to privately transact a gun sale, the feds can't say squat about it.


No, they can't say squat about it. And that's their problem. They WANT to be able to say something, probably, "No!"

If the feds get their way, you won't even be able to leave your shotgun to your son in your will without the son having to jump through hoops of fire. That's the "universal" part of "universal" background checks. Meanwhile, since the bad guys don't do anything else legally, it's a pretty safe bet that background checks, however universal they might become, are going to have zero effect on anybody who's not a law abiding American.

"Mommy, the bad guys aren't obeying the law!"

"No, honey, they're not."

"I know, I know! Let's make another law they won't obey! THAT'LL show 'em!"

Ha. We may as well make a law that says politicians should uphold the Constitution! Oh, wait. There IS one of those. And the bad guys in Congress (and the White House and the DOJ) are ignoring it, pretty much like the bad guys on the streets are ignoring the rest.

The Big Dog's back

If your son is a registered nut no you shouldn't be able to leave your shot gun to him. Adam Lanza's mom got him guns.