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Giffords marks 8-year anniversary of near-fatal Tucson shooting

In this March 4, 2015, file photo, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona gestures as she speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

PHOENIX — It has been eight years since former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and severely injured during a meeting in southern Arizona.

Giffords marked the anniversary Tuesday with a vow to “(make) our communities safer,” shortly before House Democrats were expected to introduce a bill to expand background checks for sales and transfers of firearms.

Giffords was among the 13 people who were injured in the 2011 Tucson shooting when she was shot in the head. Six people were killed.

The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, pleaded guilty to 19 charges of murder and attempted murder and was sentenced to life in federal prison.

Giffords’ husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, said, “Congress has done nothing ever since” the shooting.

“We take a big leap forward today with the introduction of background checks,” he said in a tweet.

The bill expanding 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 in an earlier statement.

“I stand ready to do everything in my power to get this legislation across the finish line.”

Several Arizona lawmakers also recognized the anniversary of the mass shooting on social media.

Giffords and Kelly have long advocated for gun control and responsible gun ownership.

They formed Americans for Responsible Solutions, a nonprofit organization that supports gun control, after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, when 28 people, mostly elementary school children, were shot and killed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the bill on background checks a common-sense measure and cited polls showing 97 percent of Americans support background checks for all gun sales.

“Our Democratic majority will press relentlessly for bipartisan progress to end the epidemic of gun violence on our streets, in our schools and in our places of worship,” Pelosi said. “Enough is enough.”

The legislation that was set to be introduced Tuesday was not the first to address the problem of mass shootings in the U.S.

The Trump administration moved last month to ban bump stocks, the firearm attachments that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire like machine guns.

Bump stocks became a focal point of the gun control debate after they were used in October 2017 by a gunman in Las Vegas who fired into a crowd at a country music concert, killing 58 people and injuring hundreds more.

A new regulation gives gun owners until late March to turn in or destroy the devices.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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