Just over two years ago, an assailant fired a pistol at a constituent meeting in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Arizona. Six people, including a federal judge, a congressional staffer, and a nine-year old girl, were killed. A bullet from that pistol went through the brain of US State Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who was believed to be the target of the attack.
I remember this day very well. I remember the varying news updates. Some outlets claimed that Giffords had died on the spot, while others reported that she was being transported to the hospital, very much alive. I remember over and over seeing the Sarah Palin produced online map that featured a number of liberal lawmakers in the cross hairs of a rifle scope. And I remember later when the University Medical Center in Tucson called Giffords’ condition critical, but that they were optimistic about her recovery.
Ultimately, Giffords survived the attack, but not without the complications and hurdles that one would expect from a bullet to the head. According to her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, “Gabby’s gift for speech is a distant memory. She struggles to walk and she is partially blind.” Giffords’ good friend Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz of Florida told CNN that even speaking a few sentences takes the former Arizona Rep. “a tremendous amount of rehearsal and practice.”
Despite the difficulties with her speech, Giffords, assisted by notes written by her speech therapist, showed all of us the strength and tenacity of a survivor and testified on Capital Hill this past Wednesday, asking that the Senate do something about the gun violence that has struck this country with a vengeance, claiming over 1,200 lives in the past two months alone.
“Speaking is difficult,” Giffords said in her brief, but powerful, speech, “but I need to say something.” Speaking is difficult struck me as a metaphor for our own discourse on a number of social issues, including that of gun control. The discussion surrounding gun control can be incredibly exhausting. When people feel passionate about something, it can be hard to be calm, rational, and respectful of whomever you are engaging in the discourse with – and I also often wonder if those are rules that need to be abided by for productive discourse to occur in the first place. But I do know that a lot of people avoid these discussions because of how quickly they can turn incredibly emotional, mean-spirited, and, frankly, completely unproductive. Speaking is difficult, but it’s necessary.
Who better to ask the Senate for action on gun control than a former U.S. Representative, a gun owner herself, who, as a gun violence survivor, is also a very public display of the tragic effects of remaining complacent in our current gun laws and regulations? Giffords’ echoed the sentiment of a lot of us when she concluded her speech by asking lawmakers – those of whom are supposed to represent our interests – to “Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.” They should. And we are.
Featured image via Facebook