TOP STORIES Gabby Giffords is still fighting for victims of gun...

Gabby Giffords is still fighting for victims of gun violence, years after she became one.

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Gabby Giffords was invited to Fenway Park this week as part of Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Vanessa Leroy for NPR


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Vanessa Leroy for NPR

Gabby Giffords was invited to Fenway Park this week as part of Gun Violence Awareness Day.

Vanessa Leroy for NPR

Former Arizona Congressman Gabby Giffords threw the first pitch at Fenway Park on Thursday. The crowd applauded as she took the ball in her left hand, threw it forward, and then raised the same hand in celebration.

Giffords used to be right-handed. But her right side is now partially paralyzed after she was shot in the head by a gunman at a founding event outside Tucson on January 8, 2011. Six people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl named Christina-Taylor Green; Chief Justice of the Federal District Court John Roll; and Gabe Zimmerman, one of Giffords’ employees.

Giffords had to learn everything all over again: how to walk, talk and, in the end, how to do everything with a non-dominant hand. So a one-second downhill pitcher represented years of work.

It was also part of Fenway Park’s Gun Violence Awareness Day. The Boston Red Sox wore orange and invited spectators to do the same. Orange has become the hallmark of the gun violence prevention movement because it is the protective color worn by hunters in the woods.

Giffords was joined in Fenway Park by David Hogg, a gun violence prevention activist and survivor of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.

Vanessa Leroy for NPR


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Vanessa Leroy for NPR

Giffords was joined in Fenway Park by David Hogg, a gun violence prevention activist and survivor of the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting.

Vanessa Leroy for NPR

life’s work

“January 8, 2011 changed my life forever,” Giffords told NPR a few days before her Fenway trip. “Our lives can change so quickly.”

Along with limited use of his right side, Giffords is still battling aphasia, a language disorder that affects a person’s ability to speak.

Re-learning her communication and motor skills in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, Giffords has also dedicated her life to calling for gun control action. After the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that killed 26 people, including 20 children, she co-founded an advocacy group advocating gun safety. She named him “Giffords”.

And just like her physical therapy, the job was extremely challenging. In the nearly 10 years since Sandy Hook, there have been thousands of mass shootings in the United States, including a recent one in Uvalde, Texas that seemed terribly familiar – on May 24, 19 children and 2 teachers were killed in Robb’s elementary school classroom.

“It can be so difficult,” she said. “Loss hurts.”

But the deaths in Uvalda, and the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and elsewhere near countries put pressure on Congress to reach an agreement. A bipartisan group of senators led by Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (D-Texas) has offered incentives for states to pass red flag laws, school safety funding and mental health resources, enhanced background checks, and more. . With the support of 10 Republicans, this measure could get the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. This still needs to be written into the bill, which is expected to come out on Sunday.

“I think Gabby is reminding us that this is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Peter Ambler, chief executive of Giffords. “In much the same way that her recovery was due to hard work, thousands and thousands of hours of speech therapy and physical therapy. That’s what the gun safety movement is all about.”

Giffords says she feels better about gun safety legislation these days. When asked about this new development, Giffords replied, “Hope, hope, hope.”

Giffords remains optimistic that gun safety efforts will bring change.

Vanessa Leroy for NPR


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Vanessa Leroy for NPR

Giffords remains optimistic that gun safety efforts will bring change.

Vanessa Leroy for NPR

But is it enough?

“That’s not enough,” says Ambler. “But it’s an important first step.”

He says that the Senate is finally being forced to act “significantly” — not just for the gun safety movement, but for “our ability as a nation and Congress to make progress on just about everything.”

“These laws, while not as comprehensive as we need them to be, have the potential to save lives. And they will do it.”

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