One of the most stirring moments of a well-produced Democratic convention was Rep. Gabrielle Giffords leading the assembly in the National Anthem. It's fair to say the dry eyes in the audience could be counted on one hand; and on that final night, setting the stage for Vice President Biden and President Obama, Gabby's appearance was an emotional thunderclap that made the Republicans' speaking-to-chairs stunt seem even more ridiculous than it appeared when we first saw it.
Many Americans probably had no or very little knowledge of the young Congresswoman from southern Arizona until the January 2011 parking lot massacre that propelled her onto the nation's front pages, but Gabby really is the smart, scrappy fighter she's proven to be before the world's eyes. Just as her convention appearance in August galvanized the troops that evening, it appears she and her husband Mark Kelly are preparing to play a larger role in the national conversation about gun safety, starting with a trip to Newtown this week.
Both ABC and NBC news sites have reported that Gifford will meet Friday with families in Newtown. NBC reported that Giffords will be at a home in Newtown for a private event, according to a spokesperson for Connecticut Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman's office. The event is not open to the public. USA Today
Media here in Arizona have also reported the trip, although Gifford's spokespersons have not yet confirmed it. It's hard to imagine a better person to meet and grieve with the families in Newtown, and while Giffords and Kelly may not use the occasion to make a public statement, their presence will help keep the nation's, and Congress's, attention on the tragedy—something that's important, as activists and politicians express concern that, sadly, Sandy Hook may fade from the nation's consciousness before legislation can be passed.
Giffords and Kelly have not been reluctant to make a case for stronger gun laws, especially here in Arizona where anyone—a felon, terrorist, or deranged psychopath—can walk into a gun show and buy a handful of assault weapons, no questions asked, no permit required, no registration or background check needed. At Jared Loughner's sentencing in November, Mark Kelly called out by name the state's Governor for her ridiculous comment that the size of magazines doesn't matter, when the only reason Loughner was stopped was that he ran out of bullets, after gunning down 19 people, killing 6.
"In this state we have elected officials so feckless in their leadership that they would say, as in the case of Governor Jan Brewer, 'I don’t think it has anything to do with the size of the magazine or the caliber of the gun.' ... Or a state legislature that thought it appropriate to busy itself naming an official Arizona state gun just weeks after this tragedy occurred, instead of doing the work it was elected to do... We have a political class that is afraid to do something as simple as have a meaningful debate about our gun laws and how they are being enforced. We have representatives who look at gun violence, not as a problem to solve, but as the white elephant in the room to ignore. As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address this issue. After Columbine; after Virginia Tech; after Tucson and after Aurora we have done nothing." PoliticoLike many others who saw Newtown as a watershed moment of tragic proportions, Rep. Giffords and Mark Kelly don't want our history of "do[ing] nothing" to continue. Indeed, earlier this week they met with NYC Mayor Bloomberg, and the day of the Newtown shooting, Giffords and Kelly posted this joint statement on her Facebook page:
"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."I doubt it's easy for Rep. Giffords and her husband to keep revisiting and replaying the tragedies inflicted by weapons in the hands of the wrong people, but she appears to have the strength to do so, and her voice just may be what a stunned America needs—so Congress will not "do nothing" in the shadow of another mass murder.