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Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, others shot in Tucson

By Laurie Bennett

January 8, 2011 at 5:40pm

Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was shot in the head Saturday while speaking to constituents at a Tucson supermarket.

Six people, including a federal judge ,an aide to Gifford and a 9-year-old girl, were killed in a rampage by a gunman who was taken into custody. Giffords and 12 others suffered injuries.

Officials at University Medical Center said Giffords had survived the shooting and was out of surgery. They said that she had been shot “through and through,” with the bullet passing through her brain, but they were “optimistic” about recovery.

In a late afternoon press conference, President Obama said at least five people had been killed, including a young girl and federal District of Arizona Judge John Roll.

Roll received death threats last year after presiding over a civil rights suit filed by illegal immigrants against an Arizona rancher.

Gabrielle Giffords
Gabrielle Giffords

Giffords had been hosting a “Congress in Your Corner” event outside a Safeway store, when a man walked up and began firing.

While many media reports described the killed as “a deranged gunman,” details were scant in the hours after the shooting. The Pima County sheriff’s office said the alleged gunman was 22 years old and had limited involvement with the law before Saturday.

Authorities identified him as Jared Loughner.

Giffords, 40, was elected to the House as a Democrat in 2006, after serving in the Arizona House of Representatives and the Arizona Senate. She is married to astronaut Mark E. Kelly, whose twin brother Scott is also an astronaut, currently serving aboard the International Space Station.

Members of Congress are not typically accompanied by security details during public appearances. Members of the House and Senate regularly participate in constituent events, and the shootings immediately sparked concerns about the safety of other lawmakers.

Giffords has been an outspoken advocate of tighter border security, inviting Obama to visit, “to fully appreciate the seriousness of what Arizonans are up against.”

She had supported another member of her state’s congressional delegation, Raul Grijalva, in April after he received threats after demanding a boycott of Arizona businesses opposed to Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

On Saturday, Grijalva called for heightened security for all members of Congress.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, saying she was “just heartbroken,” called for flags across the state to be flown at half staff.

As the National Journal points out, Giffords’ shooting is a tragic milestone: “It is the first time a female elected federal officeholder has been shot.”

The last member of Congress to be assassinated was Leo Ryan, who was killed during his 1978 visit to the Peoples Temple in Guyana, just before the Jonestown Massacre.

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