Women and Guns: Gabby Giffords and Gayle Trotter Testify in Senate

4 years ago

Women became the center of the gun control debate Monday. A Senate committee heard testimony from big names in the gun control debate -- including an unannounced statement by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head while at a public appearance in Tucson in 2010. Her husband Mark Kelly and National Rifle Association head Wayne LaPierre also appeared. But it was gun advocate Gayle Trotter who made the most memorable statements of the day, framing access to assault weapons as a women's issue. And in a particularly ironic twist, shootings in Alabama and Arizona underscored the urgency of addressing gun violence in our country.

Jan. 30, 2013 - Washington, District of Columbia, U.S. - Former U.S. Rep. GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (L) who was critically injured in a mass shooting in Arizona in 2011, accompanied with her husband Navy Capt. MARK KELLY, delivers an impassioned opening statement during the hearing for a Senate Judiciary Committee about gun control on Capitol Hill. (Credit Image: © Fang Zhe/Xinhua/ZUMAPRESS.com)

First, working off handwritten notes, Giffords delivered a short, but powerful, appeal to lawmakers:

Thank you for inviting me here today. This is an important conversation for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans. Speaking is difficult, but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you. Thank you.

Giffords paused often and struggled to enunciate, signs that she is not fully rehabilitated after being shot during a political rally in a Tucson parking lot two years ago.

While Giffords was testifying in Washington, another gunman opened fire back in her home state of Arizona, shooting three people at a Phoenix office building, killing at least one of the victims. Kelly pointed out news of the shooting to the Senate committee during today’s hearing.

Also this morning, in Alabama, another armed man shot and killed a school bus driver and held a six-year-old boy hostage.

Gun proponents, such as the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre also spoke at today’s hearing. But some of the most provocative reasons presented for supporting gun rights involved the framing the right to bear arms as a women’s issue. women might need weapons to defend themselves or their kids. To hear her tell it, guns -- assault rifles, in particular -- are practically Mommy's Little Helper. The idea of guns being good defense for women has been around since the mid-90s, but Trotter took the rhetoric to a new level, equating the right to bear arms with the right to choose:

”Three, four, five violent intruders in her home -- with her children screaming in the background -- the peace of mind that comes with a scary looking gun…gives her more courage when she's fighting hardened, violent criminals."

"I speak on behalf of millions of american women who urge you to defend our Second Amendment right to choose to defend ourselves."

But Gabby Giffords and Nancy Lanza exercised their rights to bear arms, yet that didn’t prevent them from becoming the victims of the barrel of a gun. And in another eerie tie-in to the debate, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, majorette who recently performed at Obama inauguration was shot and killed over the weekend near her Chicago high school.

Kelly and Giffords’ main argument is to close the loophole on background checks for weapons purchased at gun shows. The couple is in favor of the Second Amendment and own firearms themselves.
While Giffords and Kelly’s entry as major advocates for gun control seemed to give hope that moderate Democrats could negotiate a reasonable, bipartisan discussion about firearm regulations, they can’t do it on their own. It’s going to take some efforts from staunch gun supporters, as well.

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

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