Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was shot and critically wounded in a massacre at a Tucson "meet-and-greet" last January, is today visiting the Connecticut town where gunfire shattered an elementary school and left 26 people--mostly children 7 and under--dead last month.
Giffords suffered a severe brain injury from Jared Lee Loughner's bullet. She had to relearn speech and motor skills, lost partial vision, and suffered paralysis in her right arm. She and 12 others were injured, and six people, including Arizona's chief federal judge, died in the incident. Despite an astounding initial recovery, the Congresswoman resigned her seat in the U.S. House last January to continue her rehabilitation.
Giffords met today with U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, the state's Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, and Pat Llodra, Newtown's first selectman, according to Llodra's aide, Sue Marcinek. Giffords' husband, NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, accompanied his wife at the meeting.
Kelly has been an outspoken and influential proponent of gun law reform and better enforcement since his wife's scrape with death and addressed the subject again on the day of the Newtown shootings.
"This time our response must consist of more than regret, sorrow, and condolence," the four-time spaceman said. "The children of Sandy Hook Elementary School and all victims of gun violence deserve leaders who have the courage to participate in a meaningful discussion about our gun laws—and how they can be reformed and better enforced to prevent gun violence and death in America. This can no longer wait."
A week after the shootings, Kelly posted on Facebook that he and Giffords felt that "the NRA [National Rifle Association] could have chosen to be a voice for the vast majority of its own members who want common sense, reasonable safeguards on deadly firearms." They noted that instead, the organization stood up for extreme pro-gun positions, such as NRA executive vice-president's belief that all American schools should have armed guards and the suggestion that teachers should possibly carry weapons in the classroom.
Voicing the gruesome similarity of the Tucson and Newtown events, first selectman Llodra said today, ""I believe that our community will see Ms. Giffords as an ally in the efforts to draw attention to gun control legislation. I welcome that elevated attention and hope that this visit adds more power to the voice needed to be heard at government levels."
A spokesman for the lieutenant governor, Steve Jensen, said that Giffords planned to meet later in the day with families of some of the Newtown victims. The visit was scheduled for a private home. The congresswoman's experience and continuing concern should help those struggling with similar losses.
A Pew Research Center study of public reaction to the Newtown massacre conducted December 17-19, 2012, found ten times more immediate online discussion of the school shootings than the Tucson event.
"In the social media conversation, calls for stricter gun control measures exceed defenses of current gun laws by more than two-to-one," the report said.
About two-thirds (65%) of poll respondents think that citizen ownership of assault weapons makes the country more dangerous. Just 21% say that permitting these types of weapons makes the country safer. Households having guns agreed, though by a lower majority: half felt that assault weapons make the nation more dangerous, but only a third felt that they make the nation safer.
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert has covered mental and physical health during winter holidays and the Obamacare debate for Examiner.com. She has also reported on Secretary Clinton's recent health crisis and problems faced by Robin Roberts, Mary Tyler Moore, Sheryl Crow, and women Olympians.
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