Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) was shot at a campaign event in Tucson this morning, according to multiple news sources. There are conflicting reports as to whether Giffords has died. Giffords was reportedly shot in the head after a man approached the event and began firing, also hitting 18 other people, including three Giffords staffers:
Giffords was talking to a couple when the suspect ran up and fired indiscriminately from about four feet away, [Peter Michaels, news director of Arizona Public Media] said.
The suspect ran off and was tackled by a bystander. He was taken into custody. Witnesses described him as in his late teens or early 20s.
Giffords recently won re-election in a close race. She entered Congress in 2007 and sits on the House Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Foreign Affairs, and the Committee on Science and Technology. Today, she was hosting a “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Safeway in northwest Tucson, intended to allow constituents to present their concerns directly to her.
There have yet to be any indications that the shooting was political. Giffords was, however, a controversial figure in her district for her support of health care reform, immigration reform, and other issues. At a town hall event in 2009, also at a Safeway grocery store, her staffers had to call police after an angry constituent left a gun behind:
“Yelling and screaming is counterproductive,” [Giffords] told the Sierra Vista Herald at a Congress on Your Corner event last week. There, one visitor dropped a gun at the meet n’ greet held in a Douglas Safeway, her staff says.
That has aides, who called police to the event, concerned for her safety. “We have never felt the need before to notify law enforcement when we hold these events,” said spokesman C.J. Karamargin.
When healthcare reform passed in March, Giffords was one of 10 Democrats who “report[ed] death threats, incidents of harassment or vandalism at their district offices.” The front door to her district office was shattered.
Last year, Sarah Palin’s PAC posted a map with gun cross-hairs over the districts of several Democrats who voted for health care reform, including Giffords. Sarah PAC appears to have taken the page down today, but a screenshot is here:
On Facebook, Palin has offered her “sincere condolences”:
My sincere condolences are offered to the family of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and the other victims of today’s tragic shooting in Arizona.
On behalf of Todd and my family, we all pray for the victims and their families, and for peace and justice.
,Giffords’ opponent in the recent election, Jesse Kelly, held a campaign event in June where participants were invited to shoot an automatic weapon with the candidate, which was advertised as a chance to “get on target for victory in November help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office”:
,House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has released a statement on the shooting:
“I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff. An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country.”
,President Obama also released a statement:
This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded.
We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers.
,MSNBC is now reporting that Chief Judge John Roll, a George H.W. Bush appointee to the federal bench, was also killed in today’s tragic shooting. Judge Roll was the subject of death threats after he ruled in favor of undocumented immigrants in a major civil rights lawsuit in 2009. There is no word yet on whether today’s shooting is related to these threats.
,Giffords’ surgeon said during a press conference that Giffords is out of surgery. “At the current time period I’m very optimistic about recovery,” he said.
,”The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous, and unfortunately Arizona has become sort of the capital,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said. “We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.” Watch it here.