What (former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, seen here with husband Mark Kelly at their Tucson home) can do is help save at least some children from being mowed down by guns and a few parents from a lifetime of grief. It’s an honorable task that, given our politically polarized culture, can actually get you hated.
After her visit to Newtown, Giffords was assailed on Facebook by a Connecticut politician, who went after her in Wild West language one shouldn’t direct at the survivor of attempted murder. “Gabby Giffords stay out of my towns!” wrote this woman, who went on to accuse Giffords of “pure political motives.”
In fact, her motives are more pure than political. The gunshot wound that nearly took her life has removed any political aspiration; paradoxically enough, it may have freed her in certain ways. When I ask (New York senator Kristen) Gillibrand if her friend has changed since the shooting, she pauses in cautious senatorial fashion and then replies, “She was always positive, but now she’s more positive than I’ve ever known her. Some of the cynicism that weighs on your shoulders as a young congresswoman, that’s gone.”
Giffords will need that positivity in her struggle for sensible gun laws, one that respects the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms but regulates it, as the constitution also says. We have, of course, been here many times before. The U. S. passed an assault-weapons ban in 1994 only to see it expire ten years later when Congress, seemingly cowed by the gun lobby, didn’t renew it.
…Everyone realizes this will be hard, not least Giffords, who knows intimately the political temperature on Capitol Hill—and in the country. For tens of millions of Americans, there’s a deep-seated attachment to guns; in fact, fearful that new laws may make it harder to get firearms, people have been purchasing them in accelerated numbers. Still, things are happening both in the states (where, for example, New York has passed new gun legislation) and federally, with President Obama taking more than 20 executive actions and proposing tough new laws.
…Are you optimistic? I ask as she, Kelly, and I chat after the photo shoot. “Yes,” she says, “in the long term.”
And what about the short term?
Giffords just shrugs and gives me the smile of one who has learned the hard way not to expect too much too soon.
(Photo by Norma Jean Roy / Vogue)