Last week the White House announced that Gabby Giffords would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Joe Biden.

The medal, established in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals "who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors."

The announcement from the White House included 17 recipients, the first of Biden's administration. These included such uncontroversial figures as Olympian Simone Biles, actor Denzel Washington, and retired Air Force General Wilma Vaughtis. There were also several recipients who were key Democrat machine cogs such as labor leader Richard Trumka – the past president of the 12.5-million-member AFL-CIO – and La Raza president Raúl Yzaguirre.

Giffords, a former U.S. Representative from Arizona, was described in the release on the honor as, "A survivor of gun violence, she co-founded Giffords, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gun violence prevention."

The organization, to be clear, is the second-largest anti-gun group in the nation in terms of spending, falling just behind billionaire Michael Bloomberg's Everytown organization. According to public data compiled by Open Secrets, Giffords PAC spent more than $11 million during the 2020 election cycle alone and another $6.2 million during the 2022 election cycle as of May.

The group has been working since 2014, first as Americans for Responsible Solutions and then as Giffords, setting up a series of state organizations with mixed results, endorsing anti-gun politicians while campaigning against Republicans, pressing to have items such as muzzleloaders and .50 caliber rifles added to the NFA, and funding legal actions of various sorts. The group has even pressured web hosts to shut down legal gun accessory sites. 

The award to Giffords would have been akin to a Republican president bestowing the honor to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre or SAF founder and Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb. By comparison, the Trump administration granted the PMoF primarily to sports icons such as Babe Ruth, Roger Staubach, Jerry West, Tiger Woods, and Mariano Rivera; along with a handful of conservative thinkers such as Edwin Meese and Orin Hatch, philanthropist Miriam Adelson, and musician Elvis Presley.

"One of my reasons for hope sits inside the Oval Office today, elected to accomplish the near-impossible task of healing a divided nation," said Giffords in response to the news of her award. "My faith in President Biden has never faltered, and I’m touched beyond words at this acknowledgment of his faith in me."

Giffords strongly endorsed Biden in his 2020 election for president.

It's not the first time a Democrat administration has honored Giffords. In 2012, Naval Secretary Ray Mabus, a Democrat who formerly served as governor of Mississippi picked by Obama to lead the Navy, announced that an Independence-class littoral combat ship would be named USS Gabrielle Giffords.

Banner image: "President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talk with former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly in the Oval Office, Feb. 10, 2012." (Photo: National Archives)

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