Former lawmaker Giffords wows convention crowd

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina Thu Sep 6, 2012 10:36pm EDT

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords waves after Giffords led the convention in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 6, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi

Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords waves after Giffords led the convention in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance during the final session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina September 6, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Reuters) - Former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, still recovering from being shot in the head, made a moving appearance at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday night to lead the pledge of allegiance.

The hall erupted into a standing ovation as Giffords walked across the stage - limping, but without a cane - accompanied by U.S. Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the president of the Democratic Party and a close friend.

Giffords' voice was clear as she led the crowd in the short pledge, but her somewhat hesitant speech showed she is still affected by her injuries.

The crowd chanted "Gaby, Gaby," as she left the podium, smiling and waving. She stopped to blow a kiss and then went backstage.

Giffords was shot on January 8, 2011, during a "meet-and-greet" event at a supermarket in Tucson. Six people were killed, including a 9-year-old girl and a federal judge, and 12 others were wounded.

One of the most touching moments of the convention was a reminder that gun control has received little attention at the gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the Democrats nominated President Barack Obama to run for re-election.

Obama has been careful not to take a controversial stand on the issue, especially during an election year. The gun lobby is powerful and gun ownership is a sensitive topic for many voters in states like Virginia and Ohio, where Obama faces a tougher fight if he hopes to defeat Republican Mitt Romney on November 6.

Giffords resigned her seat in the U.S. Congress in January 2012 to focus on her recovery.

Jared Loughner, 23, pleaded guilty last month to six murders and other charges stemming from the shootings in a deal that will spare him the death penalty.

(Editing by Alistair Bell and Doina Chiacu)