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Navy Commissions Ship Named After Democrat Who Sparked Gun Control Debates

Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael D. Mitchell/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS.

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The Navy commissioned the USS Gabrielle Giffords Saturday in honor of the Democratic politician who sparked a series of national debates on gun control.

Navy Adm. William Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, gave an address Saturday to commemorate bringing the variant littoral combat ship to life.

“As we man the rails today, blood gets pumped, the ship comes alive, and the heart begins to beat,” Moran said. “It’s the blood that is infused by the spirit, the attitude, and the courage of its namesake. We are so proud to be part of Gabrielle Giffords’ legacy to the United States.”

The commissioning of the USS Gabrielle Giffords continues an Obama administration tradition of politicizing ship names. In 2012, then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced the ship’s name, attracting heated criticism from former military brass in the process, as Giffords was not a veteran. As a Democratic member of Congress, she survived an assassination attempt in 2012 and subsequently campaigned aggressively for gun control.

As former U.S. Naval Institute CEO and retired Marine Maj. Gen. Tom Wilkerson told The Daily Caller in 2012, Mabus’ decision was “a very clear statement that naming warships has become more politicized than at anytime in our past.”

Wilkerson added that, although Giffords was tragically shot, she had virtually no connection to the Navy, either in service or in support.

Retired Rear Admiral George Worthington, former commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, also told The Daily Caller News Foundation that there were a great deal of other names that would have been a better fit.

“Here is the issue. There are a lot of dead Marines out there whose names could go on anything that appears to be an amphibious ship,” Worthington said.

“We think fallen Marines and perhaps supporting sailors should go on fantails before random victims,” he added.

When Mabus initially gave his speech announcing the naming of the vessel, he cited Giffords’ courage and the fact that she “inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency.”

In a recent article for the U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings Magazine, retired Marine Corps Reserve Col. Mark Cancian argued that legislation is needed to temper the problem of ship name politicization, pointing out instances of politicization, such as ships named after Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk, John Murtha, John Lewis and Lucy Stone, among others. Chavez was a labor activist, Milk was a gay activist who preyed on younger men and received an other than honorable discharge from the Navy, Lewis was a civil rights leader and Stone was a women’s rights activist.

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