Former U.S. Representative Giffords skydives on anniversary of shooting

Wed Jan 8, 2014 6:27pm EST
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By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and badly wounded in a shooting rampage, went skydiving on Wednesday to mark the third anniversary of the attack that nearly took her life, according to an NBC journalist who accompanied her.

Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was shot in the head on January 8, 2011, when gunman Jared Loughner opened fire on her and others at a congressional outreach event in Tucson, killing six people and wounding 13 others.

NBC "Today" show journalist Savannah Guthrie, who was on the plane for the jump on Wednesday, wrote on Twitter that Giffords "stuck the landing." Giffords has skydived before, but this was her first jump since the shooting, according to "Today."

Before the skydive, Giffords, 43, tweeted a picture of herself with parachute equipment strapped to her back and said in the post that Vice President Joe Biden had called to wish her good luck. "Join me next time?" she asked Biden in the tweet.

She also said on Twitter that she would be jumping in southern Arizona with her friend, former Navy SEAL Jimmy Hatch.

In an opinion piece in the New York Times on Wednesday, Giffords said that three years after the attack that wounded her she still struggles to speak, her eyesight is "not great," and her right arm and leg have been "paralyzed." But she said she was beginning to gain movement in the arm.

Giffords resigned from Congress two years ago to focus on her recovery. Her popularity and political stature soared as she battled through a difficult recuperation.

She compared her fight against gun violence, which has been her focus since leaving office, to her rehabilitation and said the United States needed reforms such as strengthening and expanding background checks for gun purchases and making it illegal for stalkers and domestic abusers to buy firearms.   Continued...

Former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (L) is pictured with Savannah Guthrie of NBC's TODAY show in this handout photo from Gifford's skydive released by NBC's TODAY show on January 8, 2014. REUTERS/NBC's TODAY show/Handout via Reuters