During the Democrats’ sit-in in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, read a moving letter by Gabrielle Giffords on the gun crisis in America, and Congress’ responsibility to take legislative action (read: do their jobs). And if there’s any politician who truly understands the costs of gun violence, it’s Giffords.
In 2011, the former Arizona representative was targeted in an assassination attempt outside a shopping center in Tucson. She was outside speaking to constituents for a “Congress On Your Corner” event when a gunman shot her and 18 other people, killing six. Giffords sustained a severe brain injury from the gunshot to her head, but made an incredible recovery before resigning from Congress in 2012. Since her resignation, Giffords has been a fierce advocate for gun safety legislation, and in 2013, she founded the nonprofit organization Americans for Responsible Solutions along with her husband, Mark Kelly.
In her letter, Giffords addressed House Democrats, thanking them for their resolve and expressing her regret that should couldn’t be there "on the floor" with them. What she went on to say, however, speaks more universally, calling on all Americans to spur their government into action on an issue that she has been prioritizing for years.
Gun Violence Is A Crisis That Affects All Americans
Giffords points to history, emphasizing that no one, regardless of race, age, trade, religion, sexual orientation or economic class, is immune to the costs of gun violence in America. She asserts that it is all of our responsibilities to prevent massacres like Orlando from happening again, saying, “If gun violence affects all of us Americans, then the solution is not up to just some of us.”
It's Congress' Responsibility To Come Together
Giffords emphasizes that the American people already overwhelmingly agree on the point that guns should be kept “out of the hands of dangerous people.” This point is backed up by polling from Pew Research Center, which found all the way back in 2013 that 85 percent of Americans supported background checks for the sale of guns privately and through gun shows, and 80 percent supported laws which would prevent guns from being sold to the mentally ill. In her letter, Giffords stresses that it's up to her former colleagues to respond to American civilians' desire. She implores, “We can do better.”
It Is Possible To Make Gun Safety Laws A Reality
Giffords points out that “some states have already made progress” on gun safety. This goes to show that change can be made. If legislators can “put aside … differences” and “stand shoulder to shoulder,” as Giffords asserts, they can have “enormous power.”
Hope Must Win Over Fear
Giffords' words on this point are too eloquent to paraphrase:
It’s been said that hope was forged of two powerful ingredients: anger at how things are, and the courage to change them. We will not be driven backwards to live in isolation from one another and in fear of violence.
Silence Is Not An Option
Giffords ends by demanding that Congress not stifle the voices of its people by refusing to do their jobs. She reminds Congress — and all of us — that if she hasn’t been silenced speaking out on this issue, “neither should the American people.”