TUCSON, Ariz. — Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords returned to the scene of the horrific shooting that wounded her and killed six people two years ago, uttering only about a dozen words Wednesday in her first public event at the site since the rampage as she urged senators to pass background checks for gun purchases.
Among them: “Fight, fight, fight.”
Giffords spoke to reporters in the parking lot of a Safeway grocery store in Tucson to promote tougher firearm regulations. The Democrat was among 13 people wounded in a 2011 shooting rampage there as she met with constituents. Six people were killed. “Be bold. Be courageous,” Giffords said Wednesday. “Please support background checks.”
She placed a white bouquet on a memorial outside the supermarket honoring victims of the shooting.
Other survivors joined Giffords at the news conference, along with her husband, Mark Kelly. Giffords and Kelly have returned to the Safeway previously to visit the memorial, but Wednesday marked their first public event at the store since the shooting.
Kelly said that if the background checks they’re calling for had been in place, the man who opened fire at the store would never have been able to buy a gun. “The least we can do is a very commonsense thing to make it more difficult for criminals and the mentally ill to have access to firearms,” Kelly said.
A gun-control group started by Giffords and Kelly began airing a new television ad in Arizona and Iowa Tuesday calling for background checks. Sheriff’s deputies were at the event to provide security.
Jared Lee Loughner, 24, was sentenced in November to seven consecutive life sentences, plus 140 years, in the shooting. The rampage happened at a meet-and-greet event organized by Giffords outside the grocery store on Jan. 8, 2011.
A federal judge originally ruled Loughner was incompetent to stand trial. After more than a year in treatment, Loughner was ruled competent and he entered guilty pleas.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, center, looks at a photo of Christina-Taylor Green, as it is held by her mother Roxanna Green, left, as Giffords' husband Mark Kelly prepares to speak as they all returned to the site of a shooting that left her critically wounded, and many others killed, including the nine-year-old Green, to urge key senators to support expanded background checks for gun purchases, Wednesday, March 6, 2013, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)×