Gabrielle Giffords to skydive to commemorate Tucson anniversary

Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords addresses a news conference for victims of the January 8, 2011 Tucson shooting, March 6, 2013.
Former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords addresses a news conference for victims of the January 8, 2011 Tucson shooting, March 6, 2013. 

Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords makes her New Year's resolutions each year on Jan. 8, the date a gunman fired a bullet at her head--fatally at six people--during a meet-and-greet in Tucson, Ariz.

This year, she will skydive in the southwestern state to mark the third anniversary of the shooting on Wednesday.

Giffords, who now struggles to speak and has weakened eyesight, planned to devote her congressional life to public service and fight for a purpose. Three years later, that mission has meant pouring her energy into curbing gun laws.

"We knew it wouldn’t be easy, that special interests were arrayed against us, that congressional dysfunction was an enemy," Giffords wrote in an editorial published on Tuesday in the New York Times.

The Democrat said she hopes to enhance enforcement by passing a law that makes gun trafficking a serious crime with stiff penalties. A judge sentenced the assassin in November 2012 to seven consecutive life sentences and 140 years in prison.

"We’re not daunted," she wrote. "Our fight is a lot more like my rehab. Every day, we must wake up resolved and determined."

A small group of staff, board members, volunteers, and survivors from the shooting will gather on the front lawn of the University of Arizona Medical Center--as they do each year on Jan. 8--to acknowledge the event and to celebrate and appreciate the response of the hospital employees.

"There is always the thought that maybe we should just move on and forget about this. But when we see each other every year, it's like a community of people that went through a horrific event but need to stay in touch with each other," Stephen Brigham, director of capital planning and projects for the University of Arizona Health Network, told msnbc.

Many residents in Tucson on Wednesday will observe a moment of silence at 10:10 a.m., raise a flag at the fire station in the northwest district, and attend church services at night.

They expect Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild to pass a resolution for the creation of a permanent memorial located downtown at the Pima County Courthouse and in an adjacent park, Brigham said. Pima County officials approved the proposal earlier this week.

"This is a very exciting opportunity for us to put a memorial at the center of local government to recall what this tragedy was all about, which is access to government," said Brigham, who is also president of the Jan. 8 Memorial Foundation.

Last year the team focused on determining a location for the memorial; in 2014 the group will invigorate fund-raising efforts through requests on its website and select a design team.

"We think this is an opportunity to not just create a piece of public art, but to celebrate our community's response to a tragedy, to inform people of how to access government, to support our elected officials and their incredible staff, and help people be more informed about the issues in front of us," Brigham said.

Two of the city's libraries are currently home to archival memorial tributes sent to the hospital, Giffords' office, and Safeway Grocery Store where the shooting occurred. Another exhibit will open Thursday at the Eckstrom-Columbus Branch Library.

Giffords, 43, resigned from Congress in 2012 and, along with her husband, Capt. Mark Kelly, founded Americans for Responsible Solutions to curb gun violence. Giffords, who recently regained mobility in her right arm, received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.

The Senate failed last April to pass a bipartisan bill that would have required universal background checks for firearms buyers in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Since then, Giffords' efforts have included calling on Congress to take action and airing radio advertisements holding certain senators accountable for voting against the proposed legislation. Additionally, last month she transferred nearly $300,000 from her closed congressional fund to a newly-created Rights and Responsibilities PAC.

TODAY Show host Savannah Guthrie joined Giffords in her Arizona skydive on Wednesday. The event will air in an exclusive TODAY Show segment on Thursday.