It was a bright, cold day in Tucson, Arizona on January 8, 2011. I needed a pair of gloves, which you don’t usually need in Tucson. Other than that, I don’t remember much about the day I was shot at point blank range. Eighteen members of my community who were there with me were killed or injured. Like too many other places in America, the shooting changed our community, and the trajectory of my life.
When I think about that tragic event 10 years ago today, I try not to dwell or focus on the suffering and hardship the victims and survivors endured. Instead, I remember what was so special about the people with me, and what they accomplished and dreamed of. I think of Judge John Roll. We differed politically from one another, but he was always a generous and dedicated public servant. I think about Christina-Taylor Green, who was only nine years old when she was killed. She’d come to visit me because she was interested in running for office. I think about the survivors, how we’ve all had to persevere—even when it was unimaginably hard.
I think about the first steps I took after being told I might never walk again, the first word I spoke after learning of the damage the bullet had done to my brain. I’d rather focus on the heroism of the individuals who acted quickly outside the Safeway supermarket that day to save even more lives, and the many inspirational, courageous men and women—many of them young people—whom I’ve met in the decade since.
After the Senate’s failure to act in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, I decided to make fighting gun violence one of my life’s missions. I draw incredible energy from the next generation of activists I’ve met in this fight. It’s not easy to stand up when others tell you to be quiet—especially when you are wrestling with the pain and trauma that gun violence leaves in its wake.
But I kept my persistence, determination, and clarity of purpose by following the examples of heroes that came before me like the late Rep. John Lewis and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now, I find strength in new voices like Emma Gonzalez, Malala Yousafzai, and Greta Thunberg who have never let people who are older and more powerful tell them that their voices have no value. Sometimes I see myself in their indomitable will to make a difference.
My personal mantra is "move ahead." This doesn’t mean glossing over your own grief or turning a blind eye to the suffering of others. It means using this grief and suffering to build a deeper, more meaningful life. One of the reasons that I’ve connected so deeply with Joe Biden is that he is no stranger to turning tragedy into purpose. After losing his wife and infant daughter years ago, and then losing his son Beau more recently, Joe has found a way to keep going. He channels his deep empathy and compassion into public service. I know he’s going to continue to do the same as our president.
Together, he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have an enormous task at hand: healing a country devastated by a pandemic and bitterly divided by an outgoing president. I know they’re more than up to the task, and I have faith that this administration will be the most reflective of the American people—in terms of identity, experience, and mirroring our needs, hopes, and dreams—of any administration in American history.
But there’s no vaccine to prevent gun violence.
This new administration needs to treat gun violence with the urgency it deserves, and I have every reason to believe that it will. I will turn this hope into a call to action every opportunity I get. It’s why my organization, Giffords (opens in new tab), created a blueprint on how our new administration can better stop the spread of gun violence. This includes the establishment of an interagency task force led by top White House officials, so our government finally takes a coordinated, comprehensive approach to the crisis by creating an office of violence intervention and investing in proven community-based solutions to gun violence. Community-based violence prevention programs, which have been proven to drastically reduce homicides in our nation’s underserved communities, don’t require the passage of new laws at all—just funding.
Still, we can’t let Congress off the hook. There are research-based solutions that we know save lives and enjoy broad public support, but will only move forward if legislators have the courage to act. Ten years ago, I made a promise to do just that.
My life has never gone back to the way it was before I was shot, and I don’t think our country will go back to the way things were before COVID-19, either. That’s okay, as long as we keep moving forward by finding new strengths and focusing on new dreams and goals. What we’ve endured together can help us move onward towards a brighter future.
Gabrielle Giffords is a former congresswoman from Arizona and co-founder of Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence. She survived an assassination attempt in January 2011 that took the lives of six people.
Khloé Kardashian Does Not "Miss Her Old Face," She'll Have You Know
She looks great, which is not a reason to apologize.
By Iris Goldsztajn
Lizzo Just Launched Gender-Affirming Shapewear: "We Support Every Body"
And I thought I couldn't love her any more.
By Iris Goldsztajn
Gwyneth Paltrow Whispered "I Wish You Well" to the Plaintiff After Winning $1 Claim in Their Ski Crash Trial
Incredible. Amazing. Iconic.
By Iris Goldsztajn
36 Ways Women Still Aren't Equal to Men
It's just one of the many ways women still aren't equal to men.
By Brooke Knappenberger
How New York's First Female Governor Plans to Fight for Women If Reelected
Kathy Hochul twice came to power because men resigned amid sexual harassment scandals. Here, how she's leading differently.
By Emily Tisch Sussman
Why the 2022 Midterm Elections Are So Critical
As we blaze through a highly charged midterm election season, Swing Left Executive Director Yasmin Radjy highlights rising stars who are fighting for women’s rights.
By Tanya Benedicto Klich
Tammy Duckworth: 'I’m Mad as Hell' About the Lack of Federal Action on Gun Safety
The Illinois Senator won't let the memory of the Highland Park shooting just fade away.
By Sen. Tammy Duckworth
This Bill Wants to Stop Anti-Abortion Groups From Getting Your Private Data. Period
Post-Roe period tracking apps and search history suddenly have serious implications.
By Emily Tisch Sussman
Post-Roe, Pregnant People Will Become Suspects
“We anticipate a very dramatic increase in the rate of criminalization of all pregnancy outcomes.”
By Lorena O'Neil
As a Pregnant Woman Post-Roe, I'm Terrified to Travel in America
One author wonders: If my pregnancy turns tragic in a trigger ban state, will I get the life-saving care I need?
By Jo Piazza
Roe Is Gone. We Have to Keep Fighting.
Democracy always offers a path forward even when we feel thrust into the past.
By Beth Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland, hosts of Pantsuit Politics Podcast