Associated Press , By Kevin Freking, Associated Press
5:37 PM, Nov 14, 2011
10:54 AM, Nov 15, 2011
WASHINGTON - Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head by a gunman in January, said Monday she will not return to Congress until she is "better."
In an interview on ABC's "20/20" program, Giffords struggled to form sentences throughout the interview and replied, "No. ... Better" when asked if she wanted to return to Congress.
She moved her hands in front of her mouth as if needing to form the words and said, "Better, better." Her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, completed the thought for her, saying, "She wants to get better."
There has been wide speculation about Giffords' career plans, including whether she would run for Arizona's open Senate seat.
Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, in her first public interview since she was shot in the head in Tucson last winter, doted on her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, and called him "brave, brave, brave" as she kissed his bald head.
Giffords appears on ABC's "20/20" show Monday night. It's her first extended interview since the January rampage that killed six people and wounded 13.
A segment that aired on "Good Morning America" shows a thin Giffords with a broad grin as she talks about Kelly. Her husband replied that the word "brave" was the same one that came to his mind when he thinks of her - "brave and tough," he said. Then Giffords, looking directly at Kelly, responds almost in a whisper: "Tough, tough, tough."
It wasn't clear from the clip beyond those few words just how fully recovered Giffords is 10 months after the shooting. Interviewer Diane Sawyer said Giffords discusses her career plans and her recovery, and the segment included some video of Giffords' progress, from being unable to speak at all, to the point where she was ready to give a television interview.
At one point, Giffords breaks down sobbing while having difficulty relearning to speak and she and her therapist hug. In another clip, she sings into a microphone as part of her speech therapy. And in another she walks holding hands with her husband.
The television interview comes as fellow victims of the shooting came to Washington to testify in favor of a gun-control bill. They said that Giffords' appearance represents a major milestone for them as it helps them cope with the trauma they've endured over the past 10 months. About a dozen survivors and family members are in Washington lobbying for legislation that would extend criminal background checks to all gun sales and enhance the quality of the FBI's criminal background checks.
Ken Dorushka, who was shot in the arm as he shielded his wife, says the victims have become like close family members and would watch the broadcast together.
"Any time one of us has a success, it affects all of us and it helps our healing," Dorushka said.
The Tucson victims described Giffords' recovery as a miracle. Nancy Bowman, a nurse who was at the scene, said Giffords' recovery is a testament to her drive and courage.
"I don't think there's a single one of us who saw what happened to her who could possibly have believed that she could survive. I certainly never dreamed I would ever be able to experience Gabby Giffords on TV speaking to the country."
The survivors said they have not met with Giffords since the shooting. They have suffered as well over the months with the physical and mental wounds from that day.
"Unless you've been in a war or something of that nature, you can't even grasp how terrible it is to hear the screams and the whole thing of people dying around you," said Mavy Stoddard, whose husband, Dorwan, was killed as he shielded her from gunshots. " It's been very hard, but I'm continuing as best as I can to help people and that's what we need to do."
Patricia Maisch, who helped disarm the gunman, said the group of survivors hopes that Giffords will be able to return to Congress, if that's what she wants.
"I would love to have her run again, but whatever works for Gabby is what I want for Gabby," Maisch said.
The survivors and family members spoke with The Associated Press shortly before Giffords' staff gave them a tour of the Capitol. The group will be visiting offices on Capitol Hill to lobby for the legislation, which they understand is unlikely to pass in the current Congress.
"If you don't risk, you never win, and we're not going to let the shooter win," Stoddard said.
The man arrested at the shooting, Jared Loughner has pleaded not guilty to 49 charges stemming from the Jan. 8 shooting. He's being forcibly medicated with psychotropic drugs at a Missouri prison in an effort to make him mentally competent to stand trial.