'Vote! Vote! Vote!': Gabrielle Giffords talks gun violence in DNC speech, urges Biden's election

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PHOENIX – Joining others whose lives have forever been changed by gun violence, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was nearly assassinated nine years ago at a constituent event near Tucson, took the virtual main stage Wednesday to help open the Democratic National Convention in support of the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden.

Giffords, an Arizona Democrat and a prominent advocate for tighter gun restrictions through an anti-gun-violence group bearing her name, shares a long friendship with Biden.

Biden is an ally in her cause, one that was featured prominently in Wednesday’s programming.

Giffords, 50, spoke after remarks by activist and Parkland survivor Emma González and separate remarks by DeAndra Dycus, whose son was paralyzed by a stray bullet when he was 13 years old.

Gabrielle Giffords, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona, speaks to viewers during the Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.
Gabrielle Giffords, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona, speaks to viewers during the Democratic National Convention at the Wisconsin Center, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020.

Giffords appeared on screen in a heart-rending, prerecorded video that featured her walking onstage with a pronounced limp. "America the Beautiful" played. She sat on a chair, picked up a gold French horn and began to play.

Live DNC blog: Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords says ‘we can let shooting continue or we can act’ during DNC speech

She stared straight into the camera as a narrator said: “Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, shot in the head from less than three feet away. But she survived. When tragedy strikes, we seek comfort in knowing we aren’t alone.”

The video featured footage of her in a hospital bed, walking through the hallway of a hospital, practicing a speech on the couch of her home in Tucson and Biden touching her face in an intimate moment.

Then, Giffords walked to a podium set up in front of an American flag.

“I’ve known the darkest of days, days of pain … but confronted by despair, I’ve summoned hope," she said. "Confronted by paralysis and aphasia, I’ve responded with grit and determination. I’ve put one foot in front of the other. I’ve found one word and then I’ve found another. My recovery is a daily fight, but fighting makes me stronger. Words once came easily. Today, I struggle to speak.

"But I have not lost my voice. America needs all of us to speak out, even when you have to fight to find the words."

The nation, she said, is at a crossroads: it can let mass shootings continue, or leaders can act.

“We can vote,” she said. “We can be on the right side of history. We must elect Joe Biden. He was there for me. He’ll be there for you, too. Join us in this fight. Vote! Vote! Vote!"

Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, the retired NASA astronaut and Democratic Senate nominee who is vying to unseat Sen,. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., will not participate in the convention.

Biden has called Giffords an American hero and a symbol of the courage and perseverance.

"After I was shot, Joe Biden was there for me," Giffords said in March,in a written statement announcing her endorsement of Biden.

"As I worked to recover and resume my public service, he was there for me. As we've built a gun safety movement and campaigned to pass safer gun laws across America, he has been there with us, time and time again."

If elected to the White House, she said, Biden would take on the National Rifle Association and advance policies to save lives from gun violence.

"He’s done it before," Giffords said at the time. "He’s running for president to do it again."

Giffords and Biden have worked to tighten gun safety laws, most prominently in the aftermath of the slayings of 26 children and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

More: Democrats argue case for Joe Biden as empathetic. Now what would a President Biden do?

Months after her own grave wounds at the hands of a gunman, Biden was among those to welcome her back to the Capitol. He did so again when she returned to Washington for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in 2012, marking one of her final official acts as a congresswoman representing southern Arizona.

In endorsing him for president, Giffords wrote that she has witnessed him comfort survivors of gun violence.

"This is the leadership we need in the White House," she said. "Joe Biden is the choice for a gun safety president."

Giffords is no stranger to the convention stage. At the convention in 2012, she led Democrats in the Pledge of Allegiance, which she called a "turning point" in her recovery. In 2016, she spoke on the main stage, saying Clinton would "stand up to the gun lobby."

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: DNC: Gabrielle Giffords says "Vote vote vote," focuses on gun violence

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