What happened to the American politician Gabby Giffords? Gabby, 52-years-old, served as an American politician until she was shot in 2011. Gabby refused to quit and has become a strong gun control advocate.
Gabby was a rising star in the House of Representatives, until she was shot during a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot. Six people were killed, including federal District Court Chief Judge, John Roll and a 9-year-old girl, Christina-Taylor Green. Many more were injured.
Jared Loughner, 22-year-old, drew a Glock 19 semi-automatic pistol, which had four magazines, and shot Gabby in the head at point-blank range, He then randomly shot others. Two of the four magazines held 33 rounds. When Loughner stopped to reload his gun, he dropped one of the magazines on the sidewalk.
A bystander, Patricia Maisch, grabbed the magazine, and another bystander, Roger Salzgeber, hit the back of Loughner’s head with a folding chair. Bill Badger, a 74-year-old, retired United States Army Colonel, was shot, but tackled Loughner to the ground. Maisch, Salzgeber and Joseph Zamudio further subdued Loughner. Five people died at the scene, while two bystanders managed to stem Gabby Giffords’ bleeding and saved her life.
Loughner refused to cooperate with the authorities, invoking his Fifth Amendment rights. His motive for the shooting was never discovered, though a letter later revealed that Gabby Giffords’ assassination had been planned. It appeared that Loughner had been obsessed with Gabby.
In January 2012, a federal judge found Loughner to be incompetent to stand trial, Loughner having been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. On August 7th, that decision was overruled and Loughner was deemed competent. He was sentenced to life in prison with no parole.
Another politician and a pro-gun advocate, Sarah Palin, from Alaska, was heavily criticized. Her political action committee published a poster featuring a stylized crosshairs on an electoral map which included Arizona, where Gabby Giffords had been shot. This was in bad taste, as Gabby had also been issued a life sentence.
Gabby Giffords sustained severe brain damage during the assassination attempt. She had been only the third Arizona woman to be elected to the United States Congress and had served three terms. Prior to entering politics, Gabby had been the CEO of El Campo Tire Warehouses, a family business started by her grandfather.
Gabby survived the life-changing event, but her recovery was slow and long. She was forced to relearn how to walk, speak, read and write and would never regain the abilities she had before the assassination attempt.
The Gifford’s Life For Ever Changed
Gabby’s life was totally changed, but her husband’s life was also dramatically changed.
Gabby was married to Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and NASA Space Shuttle pilot. He was a U.S. Navy captain and had two daughters from a previous marriage. Kelly’s identical twin was also an astronaut. They are the only siblings to have both travelled into orbit.
Kelly and Gabby had only been married three years before the assassination attempt. When asked about Gabby, after their marriage was announced, Kelly said, “She is beautiful, smart, hard-working, balanced, fun to be with and she laughs at my jokes.”
Following their marriage the couple had a long-distance relationship, with Gabby working between Washington and Arizona and Kelly working in Houston at the Johnson Space Center. As a politician, Gabby served on the Armed Services Committee and the Science, Space and Technology Committee.
Kelly Kept Vigil
Kelly cancelled his astronaut training for his next upcoming space mission and rushed to kept vigil at Gabby’s bedside. He remained a steady, loving presence as Gabby slowly regained her ability to read, speak, write and walk again. Many memories we take for granted, had to be relearned.
Early on, Kelly realized that “Gabby not only needed his help to get her through, but also needed an advocate.”
Eventually, Gabby made enough strides in her recovery for Kelly to return to his work as an astronaut. In 2011, Kelly commanded a mission to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and other supplies to the International Space Station.
In November 2011, Glamour magazine named Gabby, Woman of the Year. That same month the Giffords released a book, Gabby, A Story of Courage and Hope. Following is a small excerpt from their book:
“While Gabby struggles for words, coping with a constant frustration that the rest of us can’t fathom, I still know what she’s thinking much of the time. Yes, her words come haltingly or imperfectly or not at all, but I can still read her body language. I still know the nuances of that special smile of hers. She’s still contagiously animated and usually upbeat, using her one good hand for emphasis. And she still knows what I’m thinking, too.”
Oval Office Visit
Gabby received a standing ovation when she returned to the U.S. House in August 2011, to formerly submit her resignation. Gabby was a moderate on the issue of gun control during her tenure in the House but became an ardent advocate for gun control following the assassination attempt.
In 2012, the Giffords visited the Oval Office to witness President Obama sign into law, the last piece of legislation that Gabby had sponsored. It was a law that gave law enforcement greater authority to combat illicit drug trafficking on the United States borders.
In 2013, Gabby and her husband launched Americans for Responsible Solutions, a non-profit organization, later renamed Giffords. It strongly advocates for gun control measures, universal background checks and the red flag laws.
In 2013, Gabby testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee about gun violence. The couple also went on a nationwide tour speaking to lawmakers and audiences about stricter gun laws. Kelly talked about how Gabby had, prior to the assassination attempt, continued to work, after her office have been shot up, instead of running and hiding.
Gabby Giffords Still has a Voice
In 2018, the Giffords attended the first March for Our Lives. Gabby didn’t speak but tweeted a photo with the caption, “If you stand for nothing, what will you fall for?” Gabby is still determined her voice will be heard.
In 2019, Kelly Giffords announced he would stand for the Senate. In a video he said, “The thing I have learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.”
In 2020, Gabby held the Bible for Kelly’s swearing-in ceremony, as a representative of the U.S. House. In 2021, Gabby had to sit and wait for news of her husband’s safety in the Capitol insurrection, ten years after her own assassination attempt. She wrote on Twitter, “It echoed the dread that millions of parents have experienced when they have received reports of school lockdowns and neighbourhood shootings.”
Gabby was at Kelly’s side when he celebrated his re-election in the 2022 midterms. Though Gabby still has difficulty speaking, the Giffords are an inspiring example of the resilience of the human nature, if we refuse to quit.
Gabby has had a long hard and painful journey back from the valley of the shadow of death. Her courage is an inspiration to all who suffer through trying circumstances. The key to such survival is to never give up.
Sure, there are times when the road seems too hard, but retaining a dream of wholeness is vital to all survivors. Learning to accept the situation, instead of succumbing to it and allowing the Black Dog of depression to reign supreme. You have to be a fighter to overcome anything in this life.
You also need someone who believes in you. Gabby’s mainstay was her husband, Kelly, but each of us need just one person to believe we can achieve what is necessary.
Check out other posts at Whispering Encouragement. We are here to inform and encourage. Talk to us. Tell us of any person, business, or incident you would like to see highlighted. Subscribe, for free, so you can keep up to date with topics that interest you.
Wendy is an inspirational writer, for which she has a strong passion. She is also very passionate about her garden and family. She says life is too short to waste, so live it to the fullest.