Trigger Warnings

As the community marks seven years since the Tucson mass shooting, opponents of gun violence have a few victories—and concerns about pending legislation in Washington.


Tucson was rocked by gun violence when a crazed gunman opened fire at Gabby Giffords' Congress on Your Corner event seven years ago.

That mass shooting killed six people and injured 13 more, including Giffords, who miraculously survived being shot through the head.

But Tucson is just one of many mass shootings that has happened in the last seven years. A movie theater in Colorado. A nightclub in Florida. A church in South Carolina. A music festival in Las Vegas. And the list keeps on growing.

Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting that left 20 young children and six adults dead led Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, to launch Americans for Responsible Solutions, a political organization dedicated to pushing for stronger background checks, limits on high-capacity magazines and other restrictions on firearms. Last year, the organization rebranded itself as Giffords.

Giffords Executive Director Peter Amber says the organization has made headway on the state level.

"Before the Tucson shootings there was actually very little in the way of a gun violence prevention movement," Ambler said. "You really saw the NRA and other elements of the gun lobby as the sole voice when it came to the firearms debate, and that was for a long time deeply destructive to our public safety and our country's attitude towards the safe use of firearms."

Now, millions of people have joined new gun safety groups, such as Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which—like Giffords—was formed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings.

Missy Paschke-Wood, a Moms volunteer, believes that concerned citizens have a huge role to play in making sure tragedies don't occur again.

"Our job as people who are concerned about this is to make sure that we don't have to wait until the next horrific shooting to have people call their elected officials," Paschke-Wood said. "It needs to be a steady stream to prevent the next shooting instead of always being a response to tragedy."

Meg Pradelt, co-chair of Gun Violence Prevention Arizona, said that while some states have pushed for new restrictions on firearms ownership, there hasn't been much done on the federal level.

"I think most of the progress that has been made today has been made in the states," Pradelt said. "Unfortunately, Congress has not been able to move forward on anything of any significance."

This progress includes 200 new gun-violence prevention laws in more than 40 states, including new universal background checks in nine states as well as laws that that grant family members the ability to intervene if someone is having a mental health crisis.

With Republicans controlling Congress and the White House, two major bills to weaken gun restrictions are on the move. One is the SHARE Act, which would make gun silencers easier to obtain, and the other is the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would allow people to carry concealed guns over state lines no matter where they got their permit. This means that the least restrictive laws would be the baseline in all states, no matter how high the restrictions on concealed weapons are in some states—a law that would "radically undermine our country's firearms safety regulations," according to Ambler.

"It's extraordinary that this Congress, in the aftermath in two of the country's worst mass shootings, actually has the gall to move forward legislation mandating concealed-carry reciprocity," Ambler said. "That bill passed the House and now goes to the Senate and we wait to see what happens there. The SHARE Act, which included a deregulation of silencers—which is just crazy—is stuck for now and something we have beaten back for the time being."

In Southern Arizona members of the House, Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally voted in favor of the bill, while Democrats Raul Grijalva and Tom O'Halleran voted against it.

While the topic of gun regulation is polarized, there are some bipartisan agreements. For example, 95 percent of American voters support universal background checks, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll, released a month after the Las Vegas shooting.

"I think people need to be a little bit less rigid in their camps and open their minds to listen to what other people have to say," Pradelt said. "There is definitely room for common ground... If we can find ways to have those kinds of conversations where we are not immediately judging somebody because they are a gun owner or not a gun owner, and find places where we both want to talk about how to save lives, that's one step in the right direction."

In the wake of the shooting on Jan 8, 2011, Tucsonans reached out and were supportive of each other, according to Pam Simon, a survivor of the Jan. 8 shooting and former staffer for Giffords.

Simon says that since the shooting, "my life has changed in many ways," Simon said. "I approach every day with great gratitude that I have more time on earth and I want to make a difference to make the lives in my community better."

Ambler noted that all anniversaries for sad occasions bring the profound sense of shock and sadness flooding back, but Giffords responds differently.

"One thing that we all get from Gabby is an enormous amount of strength, resilience, and grit," Ambler said. "You can come, in her case, face to face with someone intent on taking her life and take a bullet to the head, and emerge from that not only alive but capable of having a historic impact on the safety and direction of the country.

"Obviously you spend a lot of time mourning and remembering, but also resolving to keep on fighting."

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