Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Gabrielle Giffords only gave a two-minute speech in Orlando on Tuesday, but the former Democratic congresswoman who survived a 2011 assassination attempt didn't need to say a lot to inspire the crowd focused on gun reform.
"Stopping gun violence takes courage," she says. "The courage to do what's right. The courage of new ideas. I've seen great courage when my life was on the line. Now is the time to come together. Be responsible Democrats, Republicans, everyone. We must never stop fighting. Fight! Fight! Fight!"
Giffords along with her husband and former astronaut Mark Kelly gathered with local leaders at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts to launch the Americans for Responsible Solutions’ 2016 Vocal Majority Tour that focuses on common sense gun control reforms, like expanding background checks and stopping the sale of military-style weapons. The tour will stop in 43 cities in 14 states over the next six weeks before Election Day.
Giffords, who continues to recover after being shot in the head, was joined at the rally and at a roundtable discussion by several people who survived the massacre at the gay nightclub Pulse on June 12 and by family members of the 49 victims who lost their lives.
Angel Colón, a survivor of the mass shooting in Orlando, still uses a crutch and foot braces as he recovers from his wounds.
"As a survivor of the tragedy at Pulse, I am proud to be part of the Vocal Majority of Americans calling for responsible change," Colón says.
Celia Ruíz, sister of Juan Ramon Guerrero, one of the victims killed in the massacre, tells the crowd she's not against the Second Amendment or people's right to bear arms, but she is against dangerous people having dangerous weapons when they shouldn't.
"I pray that we can change that," she says. "For my sake, for everyone's sake, because I wouldn't wish my pain on anyone."
After a roundtable discussion, Pulse survivors Adrian López and his husband Javier Nava Coria say they want to do more to bring the fight for gun reforms into local Latino communities. The Pulse victims were majority LGBTQ Latinos.
"It took us time to get involved," López says. "We want to make our voice heard and make it happen."
López and Nava Coria say the topic is hard to get the Latino community to rally around when so much of the focus is still on employment and immigration.
"I think getting information and being here is a great opportunity," he says. "We don't have that knowledge or experience, but we're getting it and going to speak with others about it."
Giffords ended her speech to the 150-person rally with a call to action on working toward gun control measures.
"Be bold," she says. "Be courageous. The nation is counting on you."