Tim Steller’s column: Political use of Jan. 8 shooting feels stale, painful

Rep. Daniel Hernandez Jr /Capitol Media Services, File 2020

Tim Steller | Tucson.com

The video opens with the sound of a cell phone buzzing and barely audible sirens starting to rise.

A voice leaves a halting message: “Mom. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine. But something’s happened to Gabby. It’s bad. I have to go.”

That voice belongs to Daniel Hernandez Jr., candidate for the Democratic nomination in the new Congressional District 6. And it describes the situation he is best known for, even after a decade in public office — how he helped then Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in the head on Jan. 8 2011. 

Similarly his first campaign ad, released last week, begins with Pres. Obama calling Hernandez a hero for his actions that helped save Giffords’ life. 

The Jan. 8 mass shooting overhangs our politics still, sometimes in ways that survivors find off-putting or triggering. And now, a new documentary on Gabby Giffords is coming out, with the usual political and emotional ramifications.

The movie, “Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down,” opens in theaters July 15. It documents her transformation from a congresswoman with big potential to the victim of an assassination attempt, through her brutal recovery and conversion into an activist for gun safety. 

It’s hard to know what the right way is to deal with the tragic attack that shook Tucson 11 years ago.

What’s right for a political campaign may not be right for survivors.

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