Congresswoman Gabby Giffords: ‘Gun violence is a womens’ issue.’

October 22, 2014

From left: Commissioner Shiprack, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and Vanessa Timmons of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Gabrielle Giffords, the Congresswoman who has become a national leader for gun safety after being critically wounded in a mass shooting in 2011, led a roundtable discussion in Portland Tuesday on the intersection of domestic violence and guns.

Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack, and more than a dozen other women from across Oregon who work to reduce domestic violence, attended the invitation-only meeting at Grant High School.

Other notables who attended included moderator (and former Multnomah County employee) Vanessa Timmons of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, Oregon U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall and state Rep. Barbara Smith-Warner.

Congresswoman “Gabby’’ Giffords, 44, made her second-to-last stop on a nine-state tour Tuesday night, arriving at Grant shortly after 6:30 p.m. Traveling with a handful of staffers from the organization she now heads, Americans for Responsible Solutions,  Giffords launched the discussion with a strong statement about the danger many women in Oregon and across the country face.

“Dangerous people with guns are a threat to women,” she said. “Criminals with guns. Abusers with guns. Stalkers with guns. That makes gun violence a women’s issue.”

Commissioner Shiprack, who oversees the county’s Local Public Safety Coordinating Council, jumped in right away, saying the public doesn’t often see the work officials are doing to protect women and children from violence. But she said, more effort is still needed to protect vulnerable people who are victims of domestic violence.

Commissioner Shiprack praised the congresswoman for her leadership.

“I’m in awe of Congresswoman Giffords’ energy and dedication to public safety and public health,” Commissioner Shiprack said. “She understands clearly that there’s a direct connection between domestic violence and the possession of guns by criminals.”

Commissioner Shiprack (left) and Congresswoman Gabby Giffords (right) listen intently as executive director of Americans for Responsible Solutions Hayley Zachary speaks at Tuesday’s roundtable.

The Arizona Democrat was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007. She focused on health care reform and immigration issues, often sparking fierce debate in the halls of Congress and in her home state.  She was shot in the head during a congressional recess in January 2011, as she hosted a constituent meeting in a Safeway parking lot near Tucson. Six people with her, including a federal judge, were killed. Another 13 were injured in the rampage. Her traumatic brain injury left her partially paralyzed on one side and affected her speech.

A year later, she resigned her congressional seat to concentrate on her recovery. None of that struggle slowed her or dampened her enthusiasm at the Tuesday event. Participants in the roundtable heartily agreed that discussions regarding gun and domestic violence have to start early in life. They pointed to having discussions with boys and girls in elementary schools about the issues because it could have an impact later in life.

More than a half dozen television, radio and print reporters covered the 90-minute event.

As the participants filtered out of the Grant Magazine newsroom, many traded business cards and exchanged thanks for the efforts to reduce violence.

“I think this discussion was a good reminder that we always have to think about ways that we can do more to stop domestic violence,” Commissioner Shiprack said afterwards. “Our whole community needs to stand up and take more notice. It’s a problem for all of us. So we all need to be part of the solution.”