Entries in Gabby Giffords (7)


Gabby Giffords Meets With George H.W. Bush on Gun Control Tour

Joshua Lott/Getty Images(KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine) -- Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly had lunch Saturday with former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara at their Kennebunkport, Maine home, Giffords spokeswoman Pia Carusone tells ABC News.

Giffords and Kelly are on their seven-day seven-state “Rights and Responsibilities Tour,” to push for expanded background checks for firearms purchases. They are also being accompanied by some families of victims of the Sandy Hook school shooting who were with them Friday evening in New Hampshire and Saturday  in Maine.

This isn’t the first time Giffords and Bush have met. When Giffords was recovering in a Houston hospital, Bush and his wife Barbara went to visit her. In her 2011 memoir with Kelly, they write that at that point in her recovery she could only say “chicken” to the former president and first lady.

Bush has an interesting history with gun control himself. In 1989, then President George H. W. Bush issued an executive order halting the importation of some semi-automatic firearms after a mass shooting that killed five children and wounded 29 others in California in January 1989. The shooter used an AK-47 assault rifle.

In 1995, the former president resigned from the National Rifle Association after the NRA compared agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to “Nazis” who harass gun owners.

“Your broadside against federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor, and it offends my concept of service to country,” Bush wrote in a letter to the NRA president Thomas Washington on May 3, 1995. “It indirectly slurs a wide array of government law-enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.”

In a fundraising letter at the time NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, who still holds that title, described federal agents as “wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms” and wanting to “attack law-abiding citizens,” which Bush called “vicious slander on good people.”

Bush’s resignation letter ended with: “You have not repudiated Mr. LaPierre’s unwarranted attack. Therefore, I resign as a life member of NRA, said resignation to be effective upon your receipt of this letter. Please remove my name from your membership list. Sincerely, George Bush.”

In April, the Senate defeated legislation that called for tighter background checks on gun purchases, and Giffords and Kelly made stops in some of the states with senators who voted against the measure in a bid to get them to switch their votes.

The tour kicked off Monday in Nevada, where at a shooting range in Las Vegas Giffords shot a gun for the first time since being shot in the head in early 2011. They then stopped in Alaska, North Dakota, Ohio, and New Hampshire. The goal is to apply pressure to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.; Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska; Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., all of whom voted against the legislation in April.

Giffords and Kelly also stopped in Maine and Sunday they plan to be in North Carolina to thank Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., for supporting the background-check legislation.

Kelly got in some target practice in Nevada, Alaska, and went shooting in the north country of New Hampshire on the tour. The message they are sending is a clear one: they are not anti-gun, they just want what they call reasonable gun control. They are armed with their own commissioned polling in individual states, which show there is wide support for background checks in the states where senators voted against the legislation.

An ABC News poll in April found that 86 percent of Americans support extending background checks to gun sales at gun shows and online.

At a stop in Nevada, Kelly said through their “research we have found that a lot of criminals buy guns at gun shows and over the Internet and that needs to change.” He added that Giffords “inspires me every day.” She was almost killed in January, 2011 when a mentally ill man shot her and killed six others in her congressional district in Tucson, Ariz.

Besides going shooting, on the tour they have also stopped in a diner in North Dakota, grabbed ice cream in Ohio, threw out the first pitch at a baseball game in Manchester, N.H., and met with community leaders in all of the states trying to push their message.

In Nevada, Giffords told a crowd tougher background checks cuts across partisan lines.

“Democrats and Republicans, everyone. We must do something. Fight, fight, fight,” Giffords said.

It’s something Carusone, a longtime Giffords aide, also noted in an interview at the beginning of the tour, telling ABC News they will be meeting with a “coalition of unlikely allies that support commonsense gun measures,” including “gun owners, Republicans, independents, hunters, all sort of people.”

“We are with Republicans [on the tour who] we may disagree with on other issues, but on this issue they want bipartisanship and they want Congress to make some progress on this,” Carusone said.

At least one of the senators who was in the spotlight of the tour, Sen. Heitkamp, responded to the visit telling ABC affiliate WDAY-TV in Fargo, N.D., that while she does support legislation that prevents trafficking of firearms she won’t be changing her mind.

“I think that is something that we could get behind if we can get some compromise but I don’t see this thing coming up again,” Heitkamp said.

In January, Giffords and Kelly announced the creation of Americans for Responsible Solutions, and sat down with ABC News’ Diane Sawyer to discuss the initiative and mark the second anniversary of the Tucson shooting. Giffords and Kelly said the December shooting at the Sandy Hook School meant they had to do something more.

“Enough,” Giffords told Sawyer.

“After the shooting in Tucson, there was talk about addressing some of these issues, [and] again after [a movie theater massacre in] Aurora [Colo.],” Kelly said. “I’m hopeful that this time is different, and I think it is. Twenty first-graders’ being murdered in their classrooms is a very personal thing for everybody.”


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Giffords Group Targets McConnell, Ayotte in Gun Vote Ads

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Americans for Responsible Solutions, the group founded by former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, released its first ads Wednesday attacking senators who voted against the bill last week that would have expanded background checks for people buying guns.

The radio ads target Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and will run in their home states. The Kentucky ads will air in Lexington and Louisville, while the New Hampshire ads will run in Concord, Manchester, Keene, and the seacoast.

“It was a common-sense plan that protected Second Amendment Rights. But Senator McConnell ignored the will of the people,” a voice says in the ad airing in Kentucky.

“Well, it sure didn’t take long for her to ‘go Washington.’ Says here Ayotte voted against improving background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals,” a woman says in the New Hampshire ad.

Last week, Kelly told reporters their group would air ads supporting those senators who voted in favor of the Manchin-Toomey plan, in addition to attack ads against those who did not vote for the measure.

Asked the day after the background check vote if they hope to oust any senators up for re-election in 2014, Kelly said, “It’s a target-rich environment after yesterday.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Debbie Wasserman Schultz Says Gabby Giffords Is ‘Doing So Well’

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) DNC Chair and close friend of former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, said “Gabby is doing so well.” Wasserman Schultz joined ABC News in a web exclusive after her appearance on the This Week roundtable Sunday. She discussed her political career and shared news about Giffords.

“Gabby is doing so well. She’s made tremendous progress. She continues to make progress,” Wasserman Schultz said. ”She’s given a couple of short speeches. We saw how incredible she was during her testimony in front of the United States Senate. She’s started an organization with her husband, Mark Kelly, Americans for Responsible Solutions.  And they’re advocating all over the country for a responsible approach to dealing with gun violence and gun safety.”


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Charlotte for DNC

Alex Wong/Getty Images(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) -- Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose political career was cut short when she was shot in the head by a deranged constituent, has traveled to North Carolina for the Democratic National Convention.

"I can confirm that Gabby is in Charlotte to attend the convention, and she is excited to be here," spokeswoman Hayley Zachary said after Roll Call first reported she'd made the trip. "She does not have a role in tonight's convention schedule."

Her appearance at the convention could be an emotional lift for the Democrats at the TimeWarner Cable Arena.

It's been a busy month for Giffords and her husband, the astronaut Mark Kelley. On Tuesday they revealed the formation of a political action committee called Gabby PAC.

On Aug. 13, after 17 months at a rehab facility in Houston, Texas, Giffords moved back to Tucson, Ariz., where she continues therapy.

Giffords resigned from Congress in late January, a little more than a year after she was shot in the head during a constituent event in her home district in Tucson.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


What to Draw from Gabby Giffords Special Election

Mike Coppola/Getty Images(TUCSON, Ariz.) -- Voters in southeastern Arizona are at the polls Tuesday in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Gabby Giffords' retirement.

The Democratic nominee, Ron Barber, has a very personal connection to Giffords. Not only is he Giffords’ former district director, but he was also shot in the leg and cheek in the assassination attempt on Giffords in January 2011.

Tea Party supporter and former Marine Jesse Kelly is the Republican nominee. Kelly narrowly lost his 2010 race against Giffords by 4,000 votes.

While a new poll out Monday showed Barber ahead of Kelly by 12 points, insiders on both sides say their polling shows the race much tighter. Many of those closest to the contest give Barber a narrow advantage.

A win by Barber would be more than just a victory for the extended “Giffords family,” it would be a psychological boost for a White House that has endured a rough couple of weeks. After all, this is not a slam-dunk Democratic district. McCain won this district in 2008, Bush carried it in 2004, and Republicans have a significant registration advantage here as well.

A Kelly win would provide another example of a Republican advantage over Democrats -- i.e., Wisconsin recall. Furthermore, it would undercut one of the Democrats’ main arguments for the fall campaign: that GOP support of Social Security and Medicare reform (like the Ryan budget) is politically toxic. Outside groups supporting Barber have pummeled Kelly with his own words on these entitlement programs. As the Arizona Daily Star reported: “Barber and Democrats remind voters daily that two years ago Kelly said he wanted to privatize and phase out Social Security and eliminate Medicare. They slam his pledge this go-round to protect the programs as a disingenuous trick.”

And, groups supporting Barber have not been shy about personally attacking Kelly either. An ad released by the pro-Democratic House Majority PAC showing Jesse Kelly referring to Giffords as “a hero of nothing” during their 2010 campaign was criticized for a lack of context.

For their part, Republicans have tried to link Barber to Obamacare and Nancy Pelosi -- two very unpopular topics in this part of the state. Even so, Barber’s lack of incumbency -- and the fact that he has literally distanced himself from both the president and Pelosi -- have helped insulate him against the attacks.

At the end of the day, Barber’s personal story, and the unrelenting negative attacks on Kelly by Democratic outside groups, will be the real story out of this special election.

Moreover, regardless of what happens, the new congressman will have to run again in the general election in November, this time in a new district that has a much more significant Democratic lean to it. As such, we should expect this district to be in Democratic hands one way or another come next January.

Polls close at 10 p.m. EST. Given the large percentage of the vote that has been cast absentee (the expectation is somewhere in the 55-60 percent range), there is some hope that a winner can be declared rather quickly.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Race for Gabrielle Giffords’ Old Seat Shapes Up for Hard Fight

Alex Wong/Getty Images(PHOENIX) -- On Tuesday, voters in Arizona’s 8th congressional district will go to the polls to cast their votes in the special election to fill the seat left open after former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ resignation.

The race, which has been under way since April, is between Republican nominee Jesse Kelly, a former Marine who ran against Giffords in 2010, and Ron Barber, Giffords’ former district director.  Barber himself was injured in the shooting outside the Safeway grocery store on Jan. 8, 2011.  He was shot in the leg and the cheek.

Giffords has not been very present in Barber’s campaign.  She was featured on a mailer paid for by the Democratic Party of Arizona, and she will be campaigning for the candidate this weekend.  However, regardless of Giffords level of involvement, the race was never going to be in the bag for Democrats.

“It’s a district that’s pretty much split right down the middle, and one of the reasons that Gabby Giffords was able to get elected and re-elected was that she was a more conservative Democrat,” said Brinton Milward, director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, who also directs the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy.

The 8th district, currently located in the southeastern portion of the state, leans Republican.  It has gone red in the past three presidential elections.  Giffords narrowly won her re-election in 2010 against Kelly, 30, ultimately defeating him by a margin of about two percentage points.

Voting registration figures from the Arizona Secretary of State show a higher number of registered Republicans than registered Democrats in the district -- 156,361, as compared to the Dem’s 130,645 -- so winning over Independents will be extra important for Barber.

Barber, 66, has held a fundraising advantage over Kelly for most of the race.  He’s raised about $1.2 million in his campaign cycle, while Kelly has raised just under $700,000, according to campaign finance disclosures.

Outside money has poured into the race -- more than $2.2 million has been spent by groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the National Republican Campaign Committee, the pro-Democratic super PAC House Majority PAC, and the pro-Republican super PAC American Crossroads, according to the Federal Election Commission.  A majority of that spending has been in support of Kelly, or opposing Barber.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Gabrielle Giffords Resigns from Congress

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., resigned from Congress on Wednesday morning, a little more than a year after being shot in the head at close range.

“This past year my colleagues and staff have worked to make sure my constituents were represented in Congress,” Giffords wrote in her letter of resignation. “But If I can’t return, my district deserves to elect a U.S. Representative who can give 100 percent to the job now.”

Giffords slowly made her way to the House floor, walking with a slight limp as she was surrounded by the House Democratic leadership team, including her close friend Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“Everyday, I am working hard,” Giffords wrote as she concluded her letter. “I will recover and will return, and we will work together again, for Arizona and for all Americans.”

The moment carried great emotion as a number of House leaders paid tribute to Giffords. Members shed tears on the House floor, and Giffords hugged her chief of staff, Pia Carusone, who has led constituent services since the congresswoman’s injury.

Giffords’ appearance on the floor was just the third since her injury. She returned Aug. 2 to vote in favor of the debt limit and attended President Obama’s State of the Union address last night.

“I love Gabby Giffords,” Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said. “Gabby’s beauty is in the heart, in the soul, in the spirit. The House of Representatives of America has been made prod by this extraordinary daughter of this House, who served so well during her tenure here, who felt so deeply about her constituents and cared so much for her country. Gabby, we love you. We have missed you.”

Giffords looked on as Hoyer paid tribute and responded, “and I miss you.”

“We focus on her, she is our friend. We look at her remarkable recovery with great pride,” Pelosi said. “She also carries in her need for recovery, the sorrow of so many others who lost their lives. The apparent physical recovery that we see is something even more than we could ever imagine for the challenge that Congresswoman Giffords has faced. God gave her a very special mission. He gave it to Gabby Giffords because He knew she could carry that burden because he had bless her with so many, many gifts and a very loving family to make her the person that she is.”

The Arizona delegation surrounded Giffords in the well of the House as Debbie Wasserman Schultz cried when she spoke, her arm around Giffords.

“I’m so proud of my friend and it will always be one of the great treasures of my life to have met Gabby Giffords and to have served with her in this body,” Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said. “We have all been through such a tumultuous year. The nation has been through a tumultuous year, no one more tumultuous than Gabby, and her family and her constituents in her beloved home city of Tucson, Arizona, and I know being able to be Gabby’s voice today, that knowing her as well as I do, that the one thing that has not been said is that Gabby wants her constituents to know, her constituents who she loves so much in southern Arizona, that it has been the greatest professional privilege of her life to represent them.”

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“This is only a pause in that public service, and she will return one day to public service, to represent them, as she has so capably for the last five and a half years,” Wasserman Schultz continued. “The most important thing to remember, no matter what we argue about on this floor or in this country, there is nothing more important than family and friendship, and that should be held on high above all else. And I will always carry that in my heart, and even though I know we won’t see each other every day, Gabby, we will be friends for life.”

“Yes,” Giffords whispered.

“For life,” Wasserman Schultz repeated as the two embraced.

Wasserman Schultz then read Giffords’ letter of resignation on the House floor, as Giffords listened next to her.

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Giffords then made her way to the speaker’s rostrum where she handed the House Speaker John Boehner her letter of resignation. Boehner cried as the two held hands. The entire House chamber cheered with sustained applause.

Giffords cried as she walked off the rostrum.

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Before officially resigning, Giffords voted in favor of her bill, H.R.3801 -- the Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act, which she introduced shortly before being shot Jan. 8, 2011. The bill, which amends the Tariff Act of 1930 to include “ultralight vehicle” under the aviation smuggling provisions, passed unanimously, 408-0, with 26 members missing the vote.

Giffords stood in the well of the House floor and welcomed countless colleagues as they hugged her and wished her well.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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