Gabby Giffords: The Big Lesson from Our Progress on Guns

YouOften, I get asked what might have been. If I hadn’t met with constituents at a Congress on Your Corner event on Jan. 8, 2011. If I hadn’t been shot in the head, leading to partial paralysis, aphasia, and a decade-long journey to regain the ability to walk and talk. What if I was a Senator instead of my husband. Imagine what could have been.

My response every time is “Move on.” We can’t rewrite the past with our wishing or our wanting. The future, however? Now, that’s something we can play a role in shaping.

We’ve been living through two years of a pandemic and are now watching the Supreme Court overturn long-established precedent. We must remember that while collectively we process and come to terms, the remarkable progress made in gun-violence prevention cannot be overlooked.

President Biden signed the first major gun-safety bill in almost 30 years into law on June 25th. This legislation provides for funding for lifesaving laws of extreme risk and community violence intervention programs, addresses dangerous loopholes within domestic violence laws, and improves background check procedures for those purchasing long guns aged 18 to 20.

In spite of our divided country, the gun-safety movement achieved this. The National Rifle Association was rebuffed by fifteen Republican Senators who stood with the cause of justice.

No, this legislation isn’t perfect. But it’s undoubtedly true that compromise and bipartisanship are preferable to inaction—the status quo for so many years on this issue.

Legislative work is, in its essence, incremental. Ten years ago when I founded Giffords, a gun-violence-prevention group, we spent months trying to pass a similarly narrow but impactful piece of legislation. We failed to pass the bill. We continued.

The difference between then and now is the movement we’ve built. Millions upon millions of Americans refused the status quo that guns violence is the main cause of child deaths. Many Americans believed it was possible.

One of the lessons I’ve learned, in the more than 11 years since I was shot, is that real life is not as neat and tidy as our fantasy of it. But it’s a hell of a lot more worth living than an unrealistic dream.

Whether we’re talking about legislation or the state of our country, nothing is ever everything we wanted. Negotiation and compromise are our strengths. Making the best of situations that are difficult is what we do. We persevere, and as many Americans do everyday, try to make the best of difficult situations.
Make the most of this country’s imperfections.

Giffords is the subject of Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down, a documentary presented in association with TIME Studios, which opens in theaters on July 13

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