“Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” from being shot at an event in Tucson in 2011; more on gun reform; also, a compelled speech problem underground?

Nevada, near CA line, 2012

Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” is the most recent movie of a personal journey from someone affected – in this case badly injured herself – by the gun violence that has been going on in the U.S. since the 1990s.  (David Hogg has had a couple films, it seems).

trailer for “Gabby Giffords Won’y Back Down”

The film is directed by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, distributed to theaters by Briarcliff (I saw it at Regal Kingstown in Springfield VA Saturday night, alone in the auditorium) and will be shown soon by CNN Films.

Gabby Giffords as a Democratic representative from the area around Tucson, AZ, as has been married to former Astronaut and Navy captain Mark Kelly since 2007.  On Saturday, January 11, 2011, Gabby and a number of other people were shot in a parking lot at a Safeway at a political event in an assassination attempt directed at her by Jared Lee Loughner.  The details are presented in a Wikipedia article here.

“Democracy Now” interviews Gabby

The film starts out with Gabby in a rehabilitation hospital in Houston, where she gradually relearns to speak.  The bullet passed through a region of her brain that controls recall of words and speaking in sentences, but not other aspects of memory or abstract reasoning.  Slowly she regains some speech functions.  She has multiple surgeries.  Most of the bone of the top of her skull is removed to lessen swelling, and a prosthetic skull top is placed, and the scalp skin attached to it and hair actually grows normally (apparently).  At the same time as that surgery, Mark Kelly is in a critical exercise in space that requires the same kind of precision (shown in a split screen).  Her ability to relate to music (a different part of the brain) is untouched and she uses music for therapy.  In one scene she plays a tuba.  “Happy Birthday” is performed a few times (no doubt requiring copyright attribution in the end credits). 

She returns to Congress for a critical vote on the debt ceiling, which I have blogged about a lot.  (Remember Boehner v. Obama in 2011?)  She eventually leaves Congress, but after leaving NASA and the Navy, Mark Kelly (who is shown to have a twin) runs for the Senate and defeats an incumbent Republican, which is important now for having a 50-50 count in the Senate.  Mark (who is shown in one scene with his twin) would be a reasonable (and much younger) Democratic candidate for president in 2024.

The rebuttal by the NRA and Wayne LaPierre is shown.  There was indeed a “good guy with a gun” at the Tucson incident, but he could not act quickly enough and could have shot the wrong person.

The end of the film states that a bipartisan compromise gun regulation bill recently passed Congress, after some scaleback, as summarized by Emily Cochrane in the New York Times (paywall) June 24.  The text is at LOC as HR 7910, a “Protect Our Kids” Act.

The film does present NRA-types expressing their views, but this seems to mainly be an objection to giving up their edge in defending themselves from other people’s aggression to their property because a miniscule percentage of people in a country of 350 million people commit mass crimes.  It is the idea of expecting individual sacrifice to protect a common good from a more abstract enemy.  Generally countries with stricter requirements for gun ownership (like training and qualification) have much lower rates of incidents. 

The film does not dwell on Loughner’s schizophrenia (it does mention it).  Loughner did present conduct problems in the community college he attended, which caused expulsion and that is very unusual at that age.  I recall one of his math instructors mentioning his ramblings on test papers.  He claimed to experience “lucid dreaming”.  He was sentenced to life without parole.

The film summarizes other incidents that would follow, especially with some detail for Sandy Hook in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012 (a day that I visited a high school that had become significant year before when I was subbing, to see a Christmas performance and also an incident that would wind up with Alex Jones getting canceled and sued!).  I would expect a documentary on Pulse (Orlando) to get made;  I would help make it. 

In fact, the Arizona incident happened the first day I got back home (Arlington VA) after a week of Census training in Charlotte, as I started my new life after Mother died, so the day rings a bell.

Since I write fewer blog posts than I used to, I wanted to bring up one more issue today.  In Aug. 2020, Frederick Kunkle of the Washington Post reported (paywall) on the situations created when some BLM protesters would “invade” outdoor dining areas in Washington DC and pressure customers to join them, demanding “solidarity” and claiming “white silence is violence”.  This has not happened to me, but it could create a dangerous confrontation with a customer.  In some cases, under pressure, restaurant or bar owners went along with the protesters.   This goes along with the idea that “anti-racism” could be viewed as a kind of compelled speech, as a hidden prerequisite for a job, or even for the privilege of using some social media service (along with my catch phrase, “the privilege of being listened to”).

I have visited Tucson once, in January 1980, Wikipedia picture from a nearby mountain.

(Posted: Sunday July 17, 2022 at 2 PM EDT)