“Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down,” an inspirational story about the former Arizona congresswoman’s fight to recover from an assassination attempt in 2011 and lobby for greater gun safety laws, arrives in theaters July 15 amid a troubling surge in mass shootings across the country, underscoring the scope of her challenge.
But Giffords, who struggles to speak due to injuries she incurred in that attack, remains undaunted, even in the wake of the July 4 mass shootings in Illinois and the June 23 Supreme Court decision overturning concealed-carry gun restrictions in New York.
“For me, it has been really important to move ahead and to not look back,” says the former legislator, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on July 7.
“This country experiences more mass shootings than any other industrialized nation,” Giffords later writes via email. “The only defense the gun lobby has to high-profile shootings is to argue that gun laws don’t matter, that a good guy with a gun is the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun. But that’s not true, and recent mass shootings have demonstrated this.”
She calls the Supreme Court ruling overturning New York’s open-carry restrictions a “reckless and dangerous” decision, predicting that it “will undoubtedly lead to more guns in public places, which will lead to increased armed vigilantism that disproportionately harms communities of color.”
Directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West maintain that while “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down” grapples with the Second Amendment, at its core it is not a political film or even a call-to-action doc, but instead the story of an extraordinary individual who has persevered.
“A film can be many things,” says Cohen. “Unfortunately, more relevant than ever is this issue of trying to take some action to help stem the tide of these horrible gun violence problems in America. But that doesn’t take away from our belief that ultimately this is the story of a single spectacular human being and a deeply personal look at this person’s life.”
West adds: “Obviously, gun safety is very important to Gabby and that is a part of the story, but how Gabby lives life is inspirational.”
Fittingly, when asked what people can do to help, Giffords responds via Zoom: “Be a leader. Set an example. Be passionate. Be courageous. Be your best.”