February 11, 2012 in Nation/World

Obama signs Giffords’ last bill

Drug smuggling pilots targeted
Lisa Mascaro Tribune Washington bureau
Associated Press photo

President Barack Obama signs the Ultralight Aircraft Smuggling Prevention Act of 2012, Friday, with Vice President Joe Biden, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and her husband, Mark Kelly, in attendance.
(Full-size photo)

WASHINGTON – Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords visited the White House on Friday as President Barack Obama signed into law her bill that clamps down on ultralight planes used in drug smuggling.

The Democratic congresswoman has retired to focus on her recovery, but colleagues gave her legislation unanimous approval in an emotional send-off last month.

“The fact that it passed unanimously shows just how much Gabby is respected by her colleagues in Congress in both parties,” Obama said. “Her dedication to fairness and to this country has been an inspiration to so many, including myself.”

Giffords, a popular congresswoman, was shot in the head a year ago as she met with constituents outside a Tucson grocery store when a gunman opened fire at the event. Six people died and 12 others were wounded that day.

The incident came during a period of fierce partisanship in Washington and led to calls for civility in politics.

Giffords made an emotional return to Congress to submit her resignation last month, steadily walking with the help of a colleague to the speaker of the House’s chair, where John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, choked up as he accepted her statement.

The legislation, which she co-authored with Republican Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, would allow law enforcement to target the pilots of ultralight planes used in drug smuggling with the same penalties applied to those who ferry drugs by autos or other planes. A loophole had imposed softer penalties on ultralights.

Also on Friday, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that the next Independence variant littoral combat ship will be named after Giffords.

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