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Gabrielle Giffords to receive JFK Profile in Courage Award

Gabrielle Giffords was wounded in a rampage that killed six people in Arizona in 2011.

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press/File

Gabrielle Giffords was wounded in a rampage that killed six people in Arizona in 2011.

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who survived a gunman’s rampage that left six dead in 2011, was named this year’s recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation announced the award Friday morning, citing Giffords’s political, personal, and physical courage in her “fearless public advocacy for policy reforms aimed at reducing gun violence.”

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“Gabby Giffords has inspired the world with her bravery and her dedication to making change through the political process,” Caroline Kennedy, president of the foundation, said in a statement. “Instead of retreating following the tragic shooting that ended her congressional career, she has recommitted herself to fighting for a more peaceful society free from hate and violence. She is a true Profile in Courage.”

In a tweet Friday, Giffords thanked the foundation and lauded President Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Profiles in Courage,” for which the award is named.

“Wow! So proud about the #ProfileInCourage Award,” she wrote. “President Kennedy’s book is a favorite of mine. Thank you Caroline and @JFKLibrary.”

After the shooting, Giffords and her husband, retired Navy captain and astronaut Mark Kelly, founded a political action committee to advocate for policies aimed at preventing gun violence and promoting responsible firearms ownership.

Through the political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Giffords has been pushing for a bill that would require more thorough background checks for prospective gun buyers.

Giffords, a Democrat, was elected to Congress in 2006 and became known for her liberal stances in a conservative state.

In March 2010, hours after House members, including Giffords, voted to pass the Affordable Care Act, a vandal either kicked in or shot a glass door and window in her Tucson office.

On Jan. 8, 2011, Giffords and 18 others were shot during a meeting she was holding with constituents in a supermarket parking lot in Casas Adobes, Ariz., in the Tucson area. Six people died, including Arizona District Court Chief Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman, one of Giffords’s staff members; and 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green.

Giffords was holding the gathering, called “Congress on Your Corner” next to a Safeway store when Jared Lee Loughner drew a pistol and shot her in the head at point-blank range before proceeding to fire on the others.

Loughner pleaded guilty to 19 counts, including attempted assassination of a member of Congress, in August 2012. US District Judge Larry Burns sentenced him to life in prison in November.

After a year of rehabilitation, Giffords resigned from Congress in order to focus on her recovery. On the second anniversary of the shooting, Giffords and Kelly launched Americans for Responsible Solutions.

Giffords was chosen by a 13-member committee, including Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina; former senator Christopher Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut; Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow; former senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine; and committee head Albert R. Hunt, executive Washington editor of Bloomberg News.

Giffords will be presented with the award by Caroline Kennedy during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on May 5.

Last year’s Profile in Courage award went to former chief justice Marsha Ternus and former justices David Baker and Michael Streit of Iowa, who unanimously ruled to strike down a ban on same-sex marriage in the state, and Robert S. Ford, the US ambassador to Syria, who began his term a few weeks before political upheaval began in the Middle Eastern state.

Gal Tziperman Lotan
can be reached at gal.lotan@globe.com.
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