Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords delivered a short and clear message at the Cascades Library in Sterling this morning.
“Now is the time to come together and be responsible—Democrats, Republicans and everyone. We must never stop fighting. Everyone, fight, fight, fight,” she said. “Be bold, be courageous. The nation is counting on you.”
The brief statement prompted shouts and a standing ovation from a crowd of almost 200. Giffords survived an assassination attempt in January 2011 that left her with a severe brain injury. Jared Lee Loughner pleaded guilty to shooting Giffords a year later.
The former congresswoman has since started a political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, with the goal of nudging elected officials to curb gun violence. She was in Loudoun as part of a 42-day national bus tour, called the 2016 Vocal Majority.
Pia Carusone, cofounder of Americans for Responsible Solutions and former chief of staff to the congresswoman, said Giffords’ commitment to finding a balanced approach to gun control is demonstrated in the fact that she is traveling the country, even as she is still undergoing therapy.
“It is an understatement to say how hard she has worked to be with you here today,” she said.
Giffords was joined by Democrat LuAnn Bennett, who is challenging Rep. Barbara Comstock in the 10th Congressional District race; Wendy Davis, former Texas state senator and founder of Deeds Not Words; Jessica O’Connell, executive director of Emily’s List; Lori Haas, state director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence; and Del. Kathleen Murphy (D-34).
Murphy highlighted what she called small victories at the state level, like a new law that prohibits a person subject to a permanent protection order from owning firearms.
She said gun control has been a focus of hers since her brother was murdered by two gunmen. “You don’t put that away some place. You don’t get over it,” she said. “I’m not ever going to give up on this issue.”
Bennett said she would be a champion for “common sense” gun control laws if elected to Congress. She noted that her opponent, Comstock, has an A rating with gun lobby groups and that she voted to block a bill that would ban people on the so-called no fly list from purchasing a gun.
“If there is one thing that is common sense, I think it is that,” Bennett said.
Julie Keller, who traveled from Burke to hear Giffords speak, described herself as a one-issue voter, pointing to a sticker on her shirt that read “Background Checks Save Lives.” She noted that polls show that the majority of Americans favor background checks for all gun purchases, so it shouldn’t be so difficult to get a federal law passed.
“There is such an easy solution to lower the number of gun violence cases without impacting anybody’s Second Amendment rights,” she said. “If you are a law-abiding citizen, there’s no reason you wouldn’t be able to buy a gun.”
She said she plans to vote for Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8, saying, “the only way we’ll make progress on this is if we have a Democratic majority.”