COMMENTARY | Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot three months ago while meeting with constituents in Tucson outside of a local grocery store. USA Today reports she is doing remarkably well in Houston in the middle of her rehabilitation. Giffords has regained her speech, walks with assistance and seems to have no memory problems.
In short, Giffords' recovery has been miraculous. In the three months she's been recovering in Tucson and Houston, a lot of things have changed in the world. The Middle East faces massive protests, Libya is under siege and Japan is still recovering from a devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Some things have remained the same. Even after moving memorial speeches and even postponing work in the Senate for a week, government leaders seemingly have changed little in three months.
Congress in general hasn't changed its security measures much, even though some representatives have stated they will take extra measures. The New York Daily News reports representatives Jason Chaffetz and Heath Shuler both stated they intend to carry concealed weapons in their home districts. U.S. Marshals can deputize them should the need arise for better security measures and more protection against violent crime.
Still, many in Congress have stated they will go about their business as usual. Meeting with constituents and attending events are necessary parts of the job. Rep. Jerry McNerney held a similar "Congress At Your Corner" event in late January much like the one Giffords was working when she was shot. There were extra police and added precautions, but he still met with voters at a public library in California.
Congress hasn't agreed on much since the shooting, and that stigma continues today. A partial shutdown of the government may well be happening starting April 8 when funding portions of the government run out. The White House, Democrats and Republicans all don't agree on what programs should be cut, how much money should be spent and what they need to do to avert a shutdown. Reuters and USA Today report the budget dilemma is far from over as no one wants to back down.
No one is flinching as everyone says a shutdown isn't preferred, but that's the direction Congress and the White House is heading. Even as one of their own is still recovering from a critical gunshot would, many outside of Washington, D.C., are wondering why they can't all just get along. The Democrats claim they have bowed to Republican pressure but now the GOP wants steeper budget cuts. All it is in the nation's capital right now is a big mess. But at least the tone is civil, even if nearly a million federal workers are worried about their jobs.
One hefty issue revolving around the Giffords shooting is gun control. Very shortly after the shooting happened, a Republican from New York introduced a bill to Congress to make it a crime to carry guns withing 1,000 feet of a member of Congress. Rep. Peter King made the announcement alongside Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, but The Hill reported House Speaker John Boehner rejected the proposal. The New York Daily News also reports Bloomberg is disappointed in the lack of action Congress has taken on gun control laws since the shooting.
President Obama penned an op-ed piece to the Arizona Daily Star March 13 in which he stated current gun laws must be enforced more effectively. Obama also made a case for limiting access to guns for those with psychological problems. It is believed the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, is mentally unstable and was still able to purchase a gun and ammunition.
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) also introduced legislation a few days after the shooting in an attempt to close loopholes in current gun laws. So far, no sweeping legislation has been passed by either chamber of Congress as they have been working on budget problems.
How Will Giffords Proceed After Recovery?
Giffords clearly needs to focus on her recovery right now. When she becomes able to resume a normal life, she will likely be a strong advocate for making sure her constituents are taken care of. It doesn't necessarily mean she will advocate taking away guns or limiting someone's right to own firearms. However, she may take a cautious approach and join her Democratic colleagues in helping close loopholes in current gun laws.
Depending upon how moved she has been by her injuries and the events surrounding her assassination attempt, Giffords may want to do something entirely different and stay out of politics. Maybe she will want to start her own foundation and speak around the country as an advocate for non-violence. Perhaps Giffords will retire from public service and focus on the needs of her own community in Tucson.
Either way, Giffords will not go quietly into the night. As time separates us from traumatic events in our past, humans tend to forget what happened. But to the people who were affected most by the bullets and blood on Jan. 8, 2011, they will never forget the shootings, nor should they let others diminish the tragedy of Tucson.
- Jason Chaffetz
- Heath Shuler