Giffords, who survived the shooting that killed Zimmerman and five others, was escorted into the room by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who had his hand on her back as she took the podium. Boehner held a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, and was the first of many who had to choke back tears while speaking.
Biden, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.), Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ari.), Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), who was also injured in the Tucson shooting, and Giffords’s husband Mark Kelly all spoke on Zimmerman’s behalf.
Biden spoke directly to members of Zimmerman’s family, who were on hand for the dedication, calling them by their first names.
“Lots of times, we’re united in our victories, but more often we’re united in our tragedies,” he said.
Wasserman-Schultz called Zimmerman “a true missionary of this representative democracy,” and Flake recalled his nickname was “the constituent whisperer” for his ability to connect with Arizonans.
Biden noted that Zimmerman, like many who were on hand at Monday’s terrorist attack, rushed toward the gunshots when they rang out in an act of selfless bravery that cost him his life.
Giffords and Kelly were on the hill Tuesday trying to pressure Congress to act on a bill that would tighten background checks on gun purchases. Kelly spoke for Giffords, and mostly kept his comments to honoring Zimmerman. However, he did make one gun control plea.
“Gabby and I have gotten very involved in the discussion about whether everyone should have to go through background checks,” he said. “Some people say that a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun…there was a good guy with a gun that morning [in Tucson]…but he didn’t have any time to react.”
Flake has said he is against the background checks bill. Earlier in the day, Kelly said that despite the friendship between his wife and Flake, they would back a challenger to his Senate reelection if he continued to oppose the bill.