The truth about Gabby Giffords

Astronaut Mark Kelly is running for a Senate seat on a slogan (and a platform) of “science, data, and facts.” He hopes to fill the Arizona seat left vacant with the passing of Senator John McCain in 2018 (via Wired), and if he makes it to Capitol Hill, he’ll be bringing former Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords with him. 

Gabby Giffords might have been a household name in her district, but she became a national figure after she narrowly survived a mass shooting in 2011. Seventeen others were shot, resulting in the deaths of six people, including Giffords’ director of community outreach Gabriel Zimmerman, chief judge for the US District Court for Arizona John M. Roll, and a 9-year-old child (via The New York Times). 

It’s difficult not to let that one incident define Gabby Giffords because, before the shooting, the congresswoman was a rising political star within the Democratic Party. She was the youngest woman elected to the Arizona State Senate, she was in the Arizona Legislature between 2000 to 2005, and served in the House of Representatives from 2006 to 2012, when she retired to focus on her recovery (via Giffords).

Gabby Giffords was "always the adventurer"

Gabby Giffords grew up around horses. She loved to ride and competed in hunter-jumper competitions. She tells audiences her political training began at the tender age of eight, when she first learned how to deal with horse s***. When she realized she couldn’t take her horse with her to college in California (via Biography), she took up motorcycle racing instead. Her mother called her an adventurer, and no one was surprised when she began dating Mark Kelly, who had already piloted the space shuttle Endeavor (via Vanity Fair). 

She pursued her master’s degree at Cornell University and picked up a job in New York. She chose to return to Arizona to run her family’s business — a chain of discount tire stores. She says she learned to read legislation by reading a tire: by identifying its weak spots. Gabby Giffords also said she was into the idea of hiring sharp people who contradict you, because when you staff an echo chamber, “you aren’t going to get very far.”

Giffords was a legislative trail blazer for Arizona

After Gabby Giffords sold her family business to Goodyear, she entered politics and was elected to the Arizona State House in 2000. She then ran for the Arizona Senate in 2002. She resigned from the State Senate in 2005 to run for a seat in the House of Representatives (via Biography).

During her time in Congress, Giffords was part of the Science and Technology committee, and she chaired its Space and Aeronautics committee. She was keen on border security and curbing violence linked to drug trafficking. The issues were personal to Giffords — her district shares a 100-mile border with Mexico. She fought for small business tax relief and was a supporter of the Affordable Care Act. She even found time to be co-chair of the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus and sponsored House Resolution 269, which called to establish the month of May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

Giffords had big dreams. Ride Apart, which talks about Giffords’ love for motorbikes, also quotes her website as saying: “Gabrielle also is an avid motorcycle rider and a member of the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus. She hopes to ride her bike to Argentina one day, but for now, she opts for Highway 83 between Tucson and Patagonia.”

The assassination attempt gave Gabby Giffords a new goal

The assassination attempt didn’t kill Gabby Giffords’ spirit. Nine years have passed since the incident, and she is now able to walk with a brace, and she completed the 25-mile El Tour de Tucson bike trek last year. But she still struggles with aphasia, which makes it difficult for her to speak and form words. Reading is a challenge too because she lost 50 percent of peripheral vision in her eyes. To record her endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Giffords put in 130 hours of practice (via Vanity Fair).

Gabby Giffords hasn’t stopped campaigning for change, either. Giffords, who owns a gun herself, has become one of the country’s most outspoken voices in support of gun safety and against gun violence. Her group, Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, has become one of the most consequential gun safety advocate groups in the country. The group has a big dream. Its executive director, Peter Ambler, told Vanity Fair that, “We (the group) need to fundamentally win the political argument with the gun lobby. Push the NRA into the margins of American society where they belong.”

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