Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly talk recovery, guns

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Posted: Oct 08, 2014 2:43 AM
Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly talk recovery, guns

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords and her husband were finally starting to settle into normal routine in their Tucson home by the middle of 2012, making strides in her rehabilitation, decorating their house and watching hour after hour of the TV show "Glee."

Then came the movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 dead and many more injured. Months later, 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

"Newtown moved us from words to action," Giffords and husband Mark Kelly write in their book "Enough: Our Fight to Keep America Safe from Gun Violence."

The book chronicles the couple's lives from survivors to advocates, detailing the trepidation Kelly had about plunging himself into the politics of gun control. It delves into the history of the National Rifle Association while telling of Giffords' recovery efforts and the couple's political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions.

The book and an Associated Press interview with Kelly this week provide a behind-the-scenes look at the couple as they moved past the shooting and took a greater role on the national stage:

GIFFORDS' RECOVERY

Giffords and Kelly describe ways in which their gun-control advocacy has helped the former congresswoman move forward and regain her speech skills after she was wounded in the January 2011 shooting outside a Tucson supermarket that killed six people.

They detail the difficulty Giffords had in articulating the lines in a speech at a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in January 2013. But the complexity of the issue "motivated her to work even harder," they wrote.

The former lawmaker is even back to shooting, picking up a gun for the first time at a Nevada range in the summer of 2013.

Giffords had to use her left hand to fire because her right hand is paralyzed. She's not left-handed, so Kelly worried.

But was Giffords nervous?

"No, she wasn't. At all," Kelly said.

ON JARED LOUGHNER

As Jared Loughner was sentenced in November 2012 after being convicted of carrying out the shooting, Kelly and Giffords told him that was the last time they'd ever think of him.

"There's what you say in a statement and what actually happens and, as you know, those are two different things," Kelly said.

Kelly says the couple had every intention of erasing Loughner, who received seven life sentences, from their minds.

The Aurora and Newtown shootings halted that plan.

ON THE POLITICAL FIGHT FOR STRICTER GUN LAW

Even after Giffords nearly died when she was shot in the head, she and Kelly say they kept their firearms and remained staunch supporters of the Second Amendment.

While Giffords was a seasoned politician, Kelly had concerns about taking on politics.

"There was risk involved that we wouldn't be able to meet that ambitious goal, and then what does that say? That says we're not effective in what we want to do," Kelly said in the interview. "You have people who start to think about you differently. But Gabby's a politician, and I'm not that sensitive about things."

FRIENDSHIPS ARE TESTED

A long-lasting friendship between Giffords and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake was tested when he voted against a background-check bill that the couple rallied for.

"I had such complicated feelings about our old friend that morning," Kelly wrote.

Kelly believes Flake was under huge pressure from the NRA to vote against the bill.

Flake, meanwhile, said in a statement to The Associated Press: "I have a great deal of respect and affection for Gabby and Mark. They have been very effective in advocating for a cause that they deeply believe in."

WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

The couple now lives in Tucson, where Giffords works on her speech and physical therapy. They like to go to Giffords' mother's rural home to shoot guns, Kelly says.

But they don't have much free time, travelling and speaking in support of legislative candidates.

"We're gonna be really effective here in November," Kelly said. "We're gonna move ahead, and we're not going anywhere. What this country really needs is a balanced debate on this issue. And it's been really out of balance, so our job is to try to fix that."


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