Two members of Congress — one a Republican, the other a Democrat — who survived gunshot wounds in recent years shared an embrace on the House floor Tuesday as they marked the eighth anniversary of the attack against one of them.
The moment shared by U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., came shortly before newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., unveiled a gun control bill that would require background checks for private gun sales.
Eight years ago, Giffords survived an assassination attempt outside a Tucson, Ariz. supermarket where she was meeting with her constituents. Six other people were left dead and Giffords suffered significant brain injuries. Since recovering, Giffords has become one of the country’s most outspoken gun-control advocates.
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Scalise survived a shooting attempt in June 2017 when a gunman targeted him as Republicans practiced for a congressional baseball game on a ballfield in Alexandria, Va. At the time he was the third-ranking member of the House Republican leadership. He returned to Congress in September of that year and said he was a “living example that miracles really do happen.”
Giffords arrived in Washington to join Pelosi and Thompson for the unveiling of the new gun control bill, which would expand background checks for sales and transfers of firearms.
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Giffords, who co-founded a gun safety group with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, said in a statement Friday she was thrilled that her former House colleagues were responding to a gun-violence epidemic that killed nearly 40,000 people in 2017.
The bill calling for expanded background checks “marks a critical first step toward strengthening America’s gun laws and making our country a safer place to live, work, study, worship and play,” Giffords said. “I stand ready to do everything in my power to get this legislation across the finish line.”
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But National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action spokeswoman Jennifer Baker dismissed the Democrats’ proposal, commenting that a federal background check did not prevent Giffords’ shooting.
“[S]o-called universal background checks will never be universal because criminals do not comply with the law,” she said.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., who is one of the NRA’s biggest supporters, said the legislation “does nothing to prevent gun violence, yet threatens the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Despite bipartisan support for gun control, the bill is unlikely to become law given the GOP’s control of the Senate and President Trump’s promise to “protect the Second Amendment.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.