Giffords’ endorsement of Clinton ‘very, very emotional’ for convention audience

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Tucson Democrat who was left severely injured in a 2011 shooting, walked unassisted on to the Democratic National Committee stage Wednesday to endorse Hillary Clinton. (Photo by Kelsey DeGideo/Cronkite News)

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords addresses the Democratic National Convention with her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, who talked about being inspired by her fight back from injuries received in a shooting. (Photo by Kelsey DeGideo/Cronkite News)

PHILADELPHIA – Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords veered from her usual theme against gun violence to add her endorsement of presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in an address to the Democratic National Convention that one Arizona lawmaker called “very, very emotional.”

“She will fight to make our families safer. In the White House, she will stand up to the gun lobby,” Giffords said of Clinton. “That’s why I’m voting for Hillary!”

Her Wednesday address, which lasted just over two minutes, was met with a standing ovation as the audience held their purple “Stronger Together” signs high and chants of “Gabby, Gabby!” echoed across the arena.

But Giffords, who was severely injured in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, had the audience listening raptly to her remarks on resilience, unity and courage. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said watching Giffords speak so decisively about an important Arizona issue was an especially sentimental experience for members of her home state.

“For everyone in that arena, for everyone around the country watching, but particularly for the Arizona delegation – we know and love Congresswoman Giffords – it’s very, very emotional for us to see her up there,” he said.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, who watched from the delegation section, praised Giffords for the speech before thousands in the arena, a monumental step on her long road of recovery.

“Gabby’s speech was amazing, and she’s just an amazing person. The courage she shows every time she gets on stage in front of 20,000 people – it’s hard to do that,” Gallego said.

Giffords expressed confidence that Clinton, the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination in the U.S., would be able to achieve meaningful success in the long-stalled gun reform debate, saying, “Strong women get things done!”

Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, have been champions of “commonsense” gun ownership reform since 2011, when she was shot in the head during a speaking engagement when she was a Democratic congresswoman representing Tucson. The attack killed six and wounded 13, including Giffords who was near death and has been left with impaired speech and movement.

Kelly, who took the stage first, said Giffords taught him “to deny the acceptance of failure.” He reached for his wife’s hand as she stepped onto the stage and stood by her through her speech to the largest audience she’s spoken to since the shooting.

Kelly seized the opportunity to similarly promote Clinton, assuring the audience that she would prioritize gun control in her administration.

“Hillary is ready to take on one of our country’s greatest moral failures here on our soil: the gun violence that is tearing so of our communities apart,” he said. “If you want our legacy to be that we left our kids and grandkids a country with less gun violence — not more — then we need to make Hillary our president!”

Giffords concluded her brief, but pointed, endorsement with a nod to her own tragic encounter with gun violence before triumphantly exiting the stage hand-in-hand with Kelly, their arms held high.

“Speaking is difficult for me,” she said. “But come January, I want to say these two words: Madam President.”