Outpouring Of Support For Congresswoman Shot In Arizona
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CHICAGO (CBS) – Members of Illinois’ congressional delegation were offering words of sympathy and support for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and more than a dozen other people who were shot in a deadly attack in Arizona on Saturday.
Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, was one of at least 10 people wounded in the shooting spree. She was shot in the head and an aide was killed when a gunman opened fire outside a grocery store where Giffords was meeting with constituents.
At least six people were killed and 13 others were wounded. Local hospital officials said five of those people were in critical condition.
Giffords was shot in the head and doctors said her outlook was “very optimistic.”
Also killed was U.S. District Judge John Roll, the U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales confirmed.
A young child approximately 9 years old was also killed, according to a hospital spokesperson.
The shooting spree has prompted an outpouring of sympathy and support from across the nation, including members of Illinois’ congressional delegation.
Republican U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, who served in the House with Giffords before he was elected to the Senate last fall,
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a Republican who knows Giffords, says he anticipates making sure security is in place during his own town hall meetings to deter “copycat actions.”
“Right now, there doesn’t seem to be any coordinated threat against congressmen or senators,” Kirk told CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot. “An incident like this causes us to be more concerned.”
Members of Congress do not have Secret Service protection. They are protected by U.S. Capitol Police on the Hill, but they have to provide their own security – if any – in their home districts.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Evanston Democrat, said “Gabby is a great friend of mine. I know what a brilliant and a dedicated public servant she is, but just also, just a really nice person that I know likes to be out there with her constituents. It’s just such a tragedy.”
Earlier in the day, news reports indicated Giffords had been killed, but hospital officials later said she was in surgery and they were optimistic she would recover.
“It’s been this roller coaster,” hearing the conflicting reports, Schakowsky said.
Rahm Emanuel – a former Democratic congressman who helped engineer the Democratic takeover of Congress in 2006, when Giffords first took office – said “What occurred today in Arizona is a senseless and horrific tragedy. Gabby is a friend, a former colleague, and a respected public servant who was doing what she loved most: meeting her constituents.”
“She will be in … my thoughts and prayers as she fights for her life, as will all of the victims,” Emanuel added.
U.S. Rep. Judy Biggert, a Hinsdale Republican, said, “This is a shocking tragedy. Gabrielle is an amazing woman, a talented legislator, and a wonderful human being.”
Biggert has worked with Giffords on the House’s Science and Technology Committee.
U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., a Chicago Democrat, said, “I am deeply, deeply saddened by today’s shocking and horrific attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, her staff and attendees at her public event. Rep. Giffords is a bright, engaging member of Congress, and has a tremendous future ahead of her. I saw her this past Thursday in the Democratic cloakroom, and she was as pleasant as ever. I will keep her in my thoughts and prayers, and hope to see her on Capitol Hill again soon.”
President Barack Obama called Giffords an “extraordinary public servant.”
“She is also somebody who is warm and caring. She is well-liked by her colleagues and well-liked by her constitutents,” Obama said. “It’s not surprising today Gabby was doing what she always does,” he said, “Listening to hopes and concerns of her neighbors. That is the essence of what our democracy is all about. That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country.”
Obama said he has ordered FBI Director Robert Mueller to personally go to Arizona to aid in the investigation.
“This is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country,” he added. “Gabby is as tough as they come and I’m hopeful that she’s gonna pull through.”
Police said the suspect, Jared Loughner, 22, has had one minor run-in with the law. Little information is known immediately about Laughner – such as his background or a possible motive in the attack.
Police said a pistol with an extended magazine was used.
A law enforcement source told CBS News that a man apparently stood up in the crowd during the town hall meeting, shouted something and then opened fire. Someone – possibly police or security – then shot at the gunman.
The gunman has been apprehended but it is unknown if he was wounded.
Loughner is talking to authorities, but there is no evidence at this point that there is any other shooter involved.
The FBI and local law enforcement are investigating the attack.
Giffords was one of 17 Democratic lawmakers that Republican Sarah Palin highlighted during the healthcare reform debates. Her political action committee sent out election material featuring maps of the U.S. with crosshair targets over the states where those lawmakers served.
She has argued emphatically that the list was only figurative in intention.
During the healthcare debate, Palin also posted to followers of her Twitter page “Don’t Retreat, Reload.”
After Palin’s comments, Giffords’ local congressional office was vandalized, just a few hours after she voted to pass the healthcare reform bill.
On Saturday, Palin said her prayers are with Giffords and the other shooting victims.
Giffords, 40, who just started her third term in Congress, was reelected in November after defeating Republican and Tea Party favorite Jesse Kelly by a margin 49 percent to 47 percent.
A moderate Democrat, Giffords has drawn the ire of the right, especially for her support of the health care bill. Shortly following her vote in favor of the health care reform law last March, her office in Tucson was vandalized, leaving the front door smashed.
Following her swearing-in on Wednesday, the congresswoman introduced a bill to cut congressional salaries by five percent. Giffords was also among 19 Democrats who voted for someone other than Nancy Pelosi in Wednesday’s vote for House Speaker. (She voted for Georgia Democrat John Lewis.)
She also participated in Thursday’s reading of the Constitution on the House floor. She read the First Amendment, saying: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the of the people peacably to assemble, and to petition the government for the redress of grievances.”
According to her office, the “Congress on Your Corner” events allows residents of her district “to meet their congresswoman one-on-one and discuss with her any issue, concern or problem involving the federal government.” Her office says she has hosted “numerous” events since taking office in 2007.
Giffords’ husband is Mark Kelly, an astronaut who is scheduled to command the Shuttle Endeavor when it launches in April. Her brother-in-law, Scott Kelly, is in charge of and currently aboard the International Space Station.
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