In an interview with NBC's Today show on Thursday, former Arizona Senator Gabrielle Giffords stated that she may consider running for office "...a little later" down the road.
Leaving the potential open for a return to political office is a big step for Giffords, who is happy to simply be alive following being shot in the head during a political rally three years ago this past Wednesday. In that shooting in Tucson in 2011, 6 people were killed and 13 others were injured. The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was sentenced to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 additional years, following pleading guilty to 19 federal offenses.
Over those past three years, Giffords has spent time recovering from the paralysis which resulted from being shot in the brain, spending so much time in rehab that she was forced to vacate her Senate seat one year following the incident.
Today, I grieve, I remember, and I take another step. I'm stronger now. I'm winning back movement in my right arm.
— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) January 8, 2014
In an op-ed for the New York Times on Wednesday, Giffords spoke about how difficult and arduous the road to recovery has been, stating:
"I had planned to spend my 40s continuing my public service and starting a family. I thought that by fighting for the people I cared about and loving those close to me, I could leave the world a better place. And that would be enough.
Instead, I’ve spent the past three years learning how to talk again, how to walk again.... It’s gritty, painful, frustrating work, every day. Rehab is endlessly repetitive. And it’s never easy... You never rest."
The frustration has been so great during that time that Giffords found herself pondering the existential question, "... if simply completing a normal day requires so much work, how would I ever be able to fulfill a larger purpose?"
Her answer came when the shootings at Sandy Hook occurred. Since that time, Giffords and her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, have devoted their lives to increasing gun control legislation and standards, creating the group Americans for Responsible Solutions.
Unfortunately, Giffords and her organization failed to make much progress during their initial surge to prompt Congress to adopt harsher gun control laws: "Predictably, Washington disappointed us during the first year of our work with the organization we began, Americans for Responsible Solutions. Many of you were outraged at the failure of the Senate to pass the background checks bill, and so was I."
Much of the resistance in Washington came not from Senators, but rather the National Rifle Association, who, along with other gun rights groups, outspent gun control groups $12.2 million to $1.6 million during the past fiscal year.
Being ever-resilient, though, Giffords did not give up in either her rehab or her efforts to halt gun violence in the United States. Despite much opposition, gun control groups were able to help elect gun control activist Terry McAuliffe to governor of Virginia. And while little progress has been made toward passing beneficial gun control legislation, President Obama introduced two new bills this past Friday that will change increase the accessibility of mental health records and reclassify the definition of those allowed to buy guns who have a history of mental health issues.
While progress is being made, it is not enough for Giffords. In her op-ed, Giffords calls for Congress to "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."
In the mean-time, Giffords is not wasting any moments celebrating her life. She made news this Thursday for celebrating the anniversary of the shooting in Tucson by skydiving. While her physical rehabilitation is commendable, Giffords would encourage everyone to not lose sight of the ultimate goal: increasing gun control legislation to ensure others will not suffer the same fate as those 20 victims three years ago in Arizona.
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