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Giffords: Rehab's lesson of patience key to gun control
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Giffords: Rehab's lesson of patience key to gun control

  • Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, planted a yellow rose bush in a community garden in Tucson last month in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shootings.
    Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.comGiffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, planted a yellow rose bush in a community garden in Tucson last month in memory of the victims of the Sandy Hook school shootings.

In an opinion piece published late Tuesday in the New York Times (slated for Wednesday's print edition), Gabrielle Giffords said she's patiently working for gun control, drawing parallels with her rehabilitation after the Jan. 8, 2011 assassination attempt that killed six and left 13 others wounded, including the former congresswoman. Here are highlights from the op-ed:

Today, the anniversary of the shooting in Tucson that put a bullet through my head and killed six of my constituents, is when I make my annual resolutions.

Many may look at me and see mostly what I have lost. I struggle to speak, my eyesight’s not great, my right arm and leg are paralyzed, and I left a job I loved representing Southern Arizona in Congress.

But three years ago, dispatched to an almost certain death by an assassin’s bullet, I was allowed the opportunity for a new life

***

I’ve spent the past three years learning how to talk again, how to walk again. I had to learn to sign my name with my left hand. It’s gritty, painful, frustrating work, every day. Rehab is endlessly repetitive. And it’s never easy, because once you’ve mastered some movement or action or word, no matter how small, you move on to the next. You never rest.

I asked myself, if simply completing a normal day requires so much work, how would I ever be able to fulfill a larger purpose? The killing of children at the school in Sandy Hook a little over a year ago gave me my answer. It shocked me, it motivated me, and frankly, it showed me a path. After that day, my husband and I pledged to make it our mission to change laws and reduce gun violence in a way that was consistent with our moderate beliefs and our identities as proud gun owners. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, that special interests were arrayed against us, that congressional dysfunction was an enemy.

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.

But I continue to be inspired by my fellow Americans. By any measure, they’re with us. They know gun violence is a complex problem. No one law will make it go away.

We’re not daunted. We know that the gun lobby, which makes money by preventing sensible change, relies on dramatic disappointments to wound us, reduce our power, push us back on our heels.

Our fight is a lot more like my rehab.

***

We will seize on consensus where it exists, on solutions big or small. We will fight for every inch, because that means saving lives. I’ve seen grit overcome paralysis. My resolution today is that Congress achieve the same. How? Step by step: 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.

This past year, I have achieved something big that I’ve not spoken of until now. Countless hours of physical therapy — and the talents of the medical community — have brought me new movement in my right arm. 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. For so many days, it did not. I did exercise after exercise, day after day, until it did. I’m committed to my rehab and I’m committed to my country, and my resolution, standing with the vast majority of Americans who know we can and must be safer, is to cede no ground to those who would convince us the path is too steep, or we too weak.

Gabrielle Giffords represented Arizona’s 8th Congressional District from 2007 to 2012, when she resigned to focus on her recovery after being wounded in the Jan. 8, 2011 shootings. She founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, along with husband Mark Kelly, to focus on preventing gun violence.

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