In praise of . . . Gabrielle Giffords


Silence descended on a packed US Senate committee room as former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords entered to testify at the first congressional hearing on gun violence since the Sandy Hook school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children dead.

She spoke haltingly, a side-effect of the head wound suffered in a mass shooting two years ago, about the challenges facing Democrats and Republicans alike to curb gun violence.

Giffords uttered just 66 words; “gun” was not among them. She and her husband Mark Kelly, an advocate for universal background checks for all firearm purchasers, are gun owners and believe in the right to bear arms.

“This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans,” she said. “Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying; too many children.”

Her emotional plea was the longest public statement she has made since Jared Loughner stepped up to her at a constituency meeting at a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011 and shot her in the head. In 15 seconds he inflicted 33 wounds, killing six people, including a nine-year-old girl.

“We must do something,” Giffords told senators.