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What happened to AZ senator Mark Kelly’s wife? Gabby Giffords attack explained

Bruno Cooke November 8, 2020
what happened to mark kelly wife
Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

What happened to Mark Kelly’s wife? Newly elected senator and former astronaut Mark Kelly will take office on 30 November. While his story is interesting – he has flown everything from A-6E Intruders to Space Shuttles – people are asking about his wife, Gabby Giffords.

What happened to Mark Kelly’s wife Gabby Giffords?

Gabby Giffords, born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1970 is a US politician and advocate of gun control. 

She served in Arizona State politics from 2001 to 2005, and in the US House of Representatives from January 2007 until January 2012. 

Photo by Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images

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She resigned from her post because of a severe brain injury caused by an assassination attempt in 2011.

Assassination attempt during Giffords’ third term

Giffords had just begun her third term in January 2011 and was taking part in a ‘Congress On Your Corner’ event, held in a supermarket car park northwest of Tucson. 

A man, later identified as Jared Lee Loughner, charged the constituent meeting and began firing a 9mm pistol into the crowd. Loughner’s target was Mark Kelly’s wife, Gabrielle Giffords. Loughner killed six people and injured 13 others before he was stopped.

Giffords suffered a point-blank gunshot wound to the head and within 38 minutes underwent emergency surgery to save her life. Surgeons allegedly removed part of her skull to prevent further brain damage.

Then-incumbent President of the United States, Barack Obama, announced during a memorial ceremony on 12 January that Giffords had reopened her eyes for the first time since the attack: “Gabby opened her eyes!”

Giffords returned to the House floor on 1 August that same year but resigned from her seat in January.

Among the fatalities of the attack were Christina-Taylor Green, nine, and Giffords’ community outreach director, Gabe Zimmerman, who was 30.

Giffords isn’t ignorant to the fact the attempt on her life is not a stand-alone incident. She commented on the killing of Labour MP Jo Cox in June 2016, saying she was “sickened”.

Who is Mark Kelly, Giffords’ husband?

Giffords’ husband of 13 years, Mark Kelly, will succeed Martha McSally as United States Senator of Arizona.

Mark Kelly is a retired astronaut. He and identical twin brother Scott Kelly are the only siblings to have both travelled in space. 

Kelly retired from NASA’s astronaut corps in 2011, citing Giffords’ needs during recovery as a reason for his retirement. 

In 2013, the couple founded Americans For Responsible Solutions, a political action committee that aims to promote solutions to gun violence.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.