Giffords’ New Documentary Takes Aim at Gun Control
Gabby Giffords’ recovery after a shooting in 2011 has led to her new role as an advocate for stricter gun laws.
Gabby Giffords, whose career as a rising member of the House of Representatives was cut short by an assassin’s bullet, came to Atlanta on April 19 to push for new federal and state gun control laws.
The one-time Arizona lawmaker, who was the first Jewish representative in Congress from Arizona, was shot in 2011 while meeting voters in front of a Phoenix supermarket. She was in Atlanta for a screening of a recent CNN and Time Magazine Studio documentary, “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down,” at the Regal Atlantic Station theater. Her visit came after five people were killed a bank In Louisville, Ky., and six were killed in a private school in Nashville in recent weeks. She greeted a modest crowd of gun control activists and Atlanta community leaders with a call to action.
“We are living in challenging times, but we are up for the challenge. My own work has taken years. Many, many people have helped me along the way, and I have learned so much. I learned when people care for each other and work together, progress is possible. A world is possible.”
The film was directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, the same team that was responsible for “RBG,” about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It tells the dramatic story of Giffords’ recovery after she was shot in the head.
Miraculously, she survived to begin a recovery that continues to this day. Included in the documentary is footage of the first weeks of her medical treatment, where she had to wear a plastic helmet to protect her brain. A large portion of her skull had to be surgically removed to relieve pressure on her brain. A plastic prothesis was later fitted to close the opening.
Those first weeks of video were recorded by her husband, Mark Kelly, who was an astronaut and a leader of the Endeavor space mission to resupply the International Space Station.
Coincidentally, the operation to repair the damage to her skull took place on the same day that he docked with the space station. In 2019, Kelly, with Giffords’ enthusiastic support, was elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona. But that is not the only triumph that’s recorded; Giffords’ preparation for her bat mitzvah, late in 2021, gets a mention as well.
The documentary is not just about her recovery and the role her husband played in that story. It is also about the work she has done while she has recovered. The shooting, which left three persons dead including a 9-year-old, damaged several areas of her brain. She has lost the use of her right arm; walking is difficult, and she has a cane for support. Speech is sometimes difficult because of the aphasia that affects her memory of words, but she has devoted her life to changing the nation’s gun laws.
During her Atlanta appearance she spoke in short direct sentences about her new life.
“When I was shot, I never gave up hope. I chose to make a new start, to move ahead, to not look back. I’m relearning so many things…how to walk, how to talk, and I’m fighting to make the country safer. It can be so difficult. Losses hurt, but I tell myself, move ahead.”
When I was shot, I never gave up hope. I chose to make a new start, to move ahead, to not look back. I’m relearning so many things…how to walk, how to talk, and I’m fighting to make the country safer. It can be so difficult. Losses hurt, but I tell myself, move ahead.
Giffords’ attacker bought a 9mm Glock handgun with an extended magazine despite a history of mental illness. Gun laws in Arizona are among the least restrictive in the country, and Giffords has herself been a gun owner. Concealed firearms may be carried there without the need for a license. A witness to Giffords’ shooting was carrying a weapon, but he didn’t use it for fear of wounding those who were struggling to subdue the shooter.
Last week, Arizona’s governor, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who was elected last fall, vetoed three bills that would have further liberalized gun ownership.
Giffords, who is arguably one of the most important figures in the gun control movement, has helped to pass laws over the last 10 years in 19 states and the District of Columbia that are aimed at keeping guns away from those like the man who shot her. The documentary also describes her testimony in Congressional hearings aimed at creating new gun safety legislation. Congress, last year, was able to pass several modest gun control measures, and states have adopted dozens of new laws aimed at controlling guns.
But according to the Gun Violence Archive, as of April 22 there have been 172 people killed so far this year in mass shootings and another 16 in mass murders. Gun violence that includes homicides and suicides where a gun was involved have, so far in 2023, killed over 13,000 people and wounded another 10,200.