WHITEFIELD, N.H. (AP) — Two years after being shot in the head, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona called on New Hampshire’s political leaders Friday to have courage in the fight to expand background checks on gun purchases.
“Stopping gun violence takes courage — the courage to do what’s right,” Giffords said in downtown Manchester with her husband, former Navy pilot and astronaut Mark Kelly, at her side. “I’ve seen great courage when my life was on the line.”
Giffords was shot and severely wounded while meeting with constituents in January 2011. Six people were shot to death in the attack, and 13 others were wounded.
The man who pleaded guilty in the shooting, Jared Lee Loughner, has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. He had passed a background check and legally bought a semi-automatic weapon months before the shooting.
Now, Giffords and Kelly are in the midst of a seven-state tour to press for background check legislation currently stalled in a divided Congress.
The 42-year-old former congresswoman, a Democrat, has become the face of the gun control movement, while her husband is often its voice. Giffords continues to recover from her wounds, which left her right leg and arm partially paralyzed and affected her speech.
“Gabby and I are committed to doing this for the long haul,” Kelly said, flanked by several state law enforcement officials who support their effort.
The couple offers a unique perspective as longtime gun owners.
Earlier in the day in New Hampshire’s north country, Kelly purchased a Savage .30-06 bolt-action rifle at the Village Gun Shop in Whitefield, a popular stop for Republican politicians courting New Hampshire voters.
The purchase, and subsequent stop at a nearby shooting range, was meant to highlight the couple’s support for Second Amendment rights, despite their aggressive calls for expanded background checks.