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Gabrielle Giffords visits Sandy Hook victims' families

Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords visited Newtown, Conn., with her astronaut husband Mark Kelly on Friday, Jan. 4, 2013.

January 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
Former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords visited Newtown, Conn., Friday and met privately with families of the victims in the school massacre.

Accompanied by her husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, Giffords met at a private home with families of the 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal was also at the event.

"As always, I was deeply impressed by the strength and courage and resolve of the families and the extraordinary caring and generosity of Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly in visiting with them," Blumenthal said.

Giffords is a mass shooting survivor. She was left partially blind, with a paralyzed right arm and brain injury after being shot in the head at a campaign event in Tucson, Ariz., two years ago. Six people died in that attack.

Kelly has become a vocal advocate for gun control in recent months, most notably at Loughner's sentencing in November. He lashed out at politicians for avoiding a "meaningful debate" about gun laws and called out Arizona Republicans, including the governor, for taking a pro-gun stance in the months after the shooting.

"As a nation we have repeatedly passed up the opportunity to address the issue. After Columbine, after Virginia Tech, after Tucson and after Aurora, we have done nothing," he told the court.

Giffords' trip comes a day after Sandy Hook students returned to class in the neighboring town of Monroe. Parents were encouraged to attend with their children.

"There were counselors, there were therapy dogs, all the parents, there was a little bit of anxiety, but everybody, I think, was happy to get back in the swing of things," said parent Sarah Swansiger.

The new building has been reconfigured to look as much like the former elementary school as possible. About 80 parents attended an assembly Thursday with school and police officials, who fielded questions about security and activities planned for their children. Officials said security will remain at a high level for now and will be re-evaluated each week.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also announced the creation of an advisory commission Thursday that will review and recommend changes to state laws and policies on issues including gun control.

The gunman, Adam Lanza, shot and killed his mother, then drove to the school and slaughtered 20 first-graders and six educators before committing suicide.

To make a contribution to the Newtown Memorial Fund please visit: www.newtownmemorialfund.org

The Associated Press contributed to this report.