Three years ago today, she was in the most mundane of places, a supermarket parking lot in Tucson. She was engaged in the most meaningful act in political life, talking to the people who had sent her to Washington. Then a bullet pierced
The Arizona congresswoman was one of 19 who fell to bullets that day. Six would die.
Wednesday, she planned to jump from an airplane with a skydiving friend, another leap in her defiant reach for a life that came so close to ending. And she served notice that she will apply the determination that has marked her personal rehabilitation to the fight for gun restrictions that has been her public pursuit for the last year.
Giffords, now 43, left
“This past year, I have achieved something big that I’ve not spoken of until now,” she said in a commentary published Wednesday in the
"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."
As is typical after a high-profile shooting, Giffords' wounding propelled a raft of predictions that gun restrictions would be tightened. As is also typical, not much happened. Not much happened in the year since Newtown, either, as Giffords acknowledged; gun control proposals made by the Obama administration have largely foundered in Congress.
"Predictably, Washington disappointed us during the first year of our work with the organization," she wrote. "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 .... 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. Every day, we must wake up resolved and determined."
The emergence of groups like Giffords’ — and
In Colorado, home to searing shootings in Columbine and Aurora, among other places, new restrictions prompted the successful recall last year of two Democratic legislators; a third resigned to avoid the same fate. (Gun control advocates believe they rebounded in November by aiding the gubernatorial win in Virginia by Democrat Terry McAuliffe.)
The latest policy moves on guns came last week, when the Obama administration announced new rules that would bring more mental health records into the federal background check system employed during some gun purchases. While the new rules could have blocked purchases in at least one high profile case — the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre — they do nothing to expand the types of gun purchases that require background checks, as Obama had earlier advocated.
On the anniversary of her shooting, Giffords merged the political and the personal. In her New York Times commentary, she called on Congress to pass proposals that she said represented consensus: making it illegal for stalkers and domestic abusers to buy guns, extending mental health resources, stiffening penalties for gun trafficking and strengthening the background check system.
"It's been step by step since I was shot three years ago. I've overcome a lot. Progress has come from working hard," the former congresswoman wrote.
"Today, I grieve, I remember, and I take another step. I'm stronger now."
[Updated, 12:31 p.m. PST Jan. 8: Giffords' husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, reported that Giffords, in tandem with a fellow skydiver, had landed safely after her parachute jump in Arizona. "So proud of her bravery," he tweeted. Corrected, 6:45 p.m. PST Jan. 8: An earlier version of this post said 18 people were shot that day. Actually, it was 19.]