No Tucsonan will ever forget the tragic Safeway shooting on the morning of January 8, 2011 that claimed six lives. This shooting at a “Congress on Your Corner” event presided by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords gravely wounded the Congresswoman and several members of her staff, while claiming the lives of Christina-Taylor Green, Dorothy Morris, Judge John Roll, Phyllis Schneck, Dorwan Stoddard and Gabe Zimmerman.
The unspeakable shock and mourning throughout our community resulted in a wave of compassion reminiscent of the nationwide mourning following the September 11, 2001 terrorist plane crashes that killed 2,977 people at the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, VA and a rural field in western Pennsylvania.
Over the days and weeks following the January 8 Tucson shooting I sensed an overwhelming tone of mutual respect and appreciation characterizing people’s day to day interactions with each other. Visiting the memorial garden in front of Congresswoman Giffords’ district office I was struck by a humble sign that proudly proclaimed:
Nothing can stop us
As we approach the 10th anniversary of this horrific shooting I would like to take a few moments to highlight relevant development occurring over the ten years following January 8, 2011.
Following numerous mass shootings across the country, a large and growing segment of our population embraces the need for truly effective gun control. Key Arizona advocacy groups include Arizonans for Gun Safety and “Giffords.” The “Giffords” organization provides a nationwide advocacy focus, including the Giffords Gun Law Center which works in all 50 states to advocate strong gun safety laws. A number of states, including New York and Connecticut, have enacted exemplary laws.
Unfortunately, gun shows, where virtually anyone can purchase a firearm without a background check, are still widely held throughout Arizona. It is also evident that the Trump administration has not been a friend of effective gun control; in 2017 they rolled back an Obama-era regulation that had made it difficult for mentally ill persons to purchase firearms.
Arizona’s moving toward the Blue:
Back in 2011 Arizona was essentially a Red state with a Republican Governor and two Republican Senators. Senator John McCain, of course, was deeply admired by many members of both parties. In 2021 we now have a rather controversial Republican Governor and two Democrat Senators – Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema. Worthy of note, our state “voted Blue” in the 2020 presidential election, awarding our 11 electoral votes to the Biden/Harris ticket.
Mark Kelly’s election to the Senate: Following in his wife Gabby’s footsteps Mark won AZ’s second Senate seat last November, beating out Martha McSally, who had been appointed by the Governor to that seat following Sen John McCain’s death. Kelly’s campaign website details his progressive and reasoned positions on numerous issues affecting the welfare of Arizonans, including gun safety, economy and jobs, border security, health care and women’s rights.
Cause for optimism:
We are on the cusp of president-elect Biden’s inauguration on January 20. With the changing of the guard to Biden and Harris, together with the presence of both Senators Kelly and Sinema in Washington, I am extremely optimistic that we will witness many positive changes over the months and years ahead.
January 8 Memorial Dedication this coming Friday:
Beginning Friday, shortly before 10 AM, a commemorative ceremony will take place at the Pima County Courthouse, dedicating a memorial honoring the victims, survivors and first responders involved with the horrific shooting on January 8, 2011. Because of the ongoing pandemic, the ceremony will be closed to the public. Readers can view it on the Pima County Facebook page, and local TV stations will most likely broadcast the ceremony. For further details, see Carolyn Classen’s calendar entry on the dedication.