Former Arizona congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband didn't necessarily plan on becoming gun control activists, but one life-altering day changed those plans.
Just over two years after Giffords was shot in the head by a mentally ill gunman in a parking lot in Tucson, Ariz., she and husband Mark Kelly have created a political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions (ARS), to advocate for "common sense protections" from gun violence. Giffords' own ordeal, followed by the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Newtown, Conn., made the couple feel they had to do something, and they spoke about their new mission in the March issue of Vogue.
“We didn’t want to be doing this,” Kelly said. “There are lots of things we’d rather have done. But sometimes you don’t get a choice. Gabby is ‘OK, this happened to me. I want it to count for something.’ ”
ARS is intended to be an opposing force to the powerful National Rifle Association, which fights against the majority of proposals for gun regulation. This new PAC was created "because entrenched interests like the gun lobby have used big money and influence to stop Congress from acting,'' according to the ARS website. The group is committed to legislation like mandatory background checks for gun buyers at stores and gun shows, a ban on assault weapon sales to civilians, and the size of ammo magazines sold.
In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Barack Obama made an emotional call for a congressional vote on gun control. However, the issue has faced heavy political opposition, and the NRA is one of the most powerful lobbying organizations in the country. Giffords told Vogue she was optimistic that legislation to help prevent any more mass shootings can be achieved "in the long term." When asked about whether anything will be done in the short term, she shrugged and smiled.
Giffords and Kelly, a retired astronaut, are both gun owners who support the right to bear arms and were raised in families where firearms were a regular presence. They hope to push for legislation that can prevent tragedies like Jan. 8, 2011, when gunman Jared Lee Loughner shot Giffords in the head, killed six of her constituents (including a 9-year-old girl), and wounded 12 others.
The shooting nearly killed Giffords, a former Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Arizona who resigned in January 2012 after three terms to continue in her difficult recovery. Giffords still undergoes physical and speech therapy multiple times per week.
“She’s definitely frustrated,” New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a friend of Giffords, told Vogue. “She thinks about what might have been, I’m sure. She’s the type of person who wants to be part of the community and part of the world. But she’s such a positive person that I know she’s tried to transition her focus to what she can do.”