Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Shot

Rep. Gabrielle (Gabby) Giffords being sworn in January 5, 2010 (AP)
"Our democracy is a light, a beacon really, around the world because we effect change at the ballot box and not because of these outbursts of violence in certain cases."
- Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after her office window was shattered in March 2010

January 8, 2011

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) was shot in the head outside a grocery store in Tuscon, Arizona. She is in critical condition.  Eighteen people were wounded and six died including a 9-year-old girl and Federal Judge John Roll.  Also killed in the senseless shooting rampage was 30-year-old Gabe Zimmerman, a staff member of the Congresswoman.

Rep. Giffords was holding a meet and greet with constituents when a 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner started shooting. He is in custody and police are searching for a second suspect.

Rep. Giffords is married to astronaut Mark Kelly who is scheduled to command the Endeavor launch on April 1st.

President Obama called the shooting a national tragedy and sent the head of the FBI to Tuscon to assist with the investigation.  Statements from national leaders:
President Obama: "This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tuscon, 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 Rep. 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."

Speaker John Boehner: "An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.  This is a sad day for our country."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the attack a "national tragedy and a very sad day for our country." Giffords, Pelosi said, is a "brilliant and courageous member of Congress."

Senator John McCain( R-Arizona): "Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence issued a statement that said in part: "We find it unacceptable that when Americans and our elected leaders are assembling in public places, their lives are at risk from gun violence. We also are deeply concerned about the heated political rhetoric that escalates debates and controversies, and sometimes makes it seem as if violence is an acceptable response to honest disagreements."
(Quotes from Politics Daily.) Read former Rep. Alan Grayson's statement.

Citizens across the U.S. join our nation's leaders in mourning this terrible incident. Many, including bloggers and the press, are wondering if Rep. Giffords was the victim of our country's political division and heated rhetoric.

Last year Rep. Giffords was among many lawmakers who were criticized and targeted for their support of the health care legislation.

In March 2010, Sarah Palin called on the Tea Party to fire some Democrats who backed healthcare reform. Her controversial map contained crosshairs and her statement made gun references like, "We'll take aim."   It targeted 20 legislators who lived in districts that McCain and Palin carried in the 2008 election.  Rep. Giffords was one of 20 legislators in the crosshairs on this graphic from Palin's facebook page.

After the healthcare vote, Sarah Palin told Twitter followers, "Commonsense Conservatives and lovers of America: 'Don't Retreat, Instead - RELOAD!'"

While I found such language offensive in March, I now find the message chilling.

I wrote about the startling reaction to the passage of the healthcare bill in a March 24, 2010 post, Scary Reation to Passage of the Healthcare Bill. From that post:

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz) had the front door of her Tucson office shattered (left) early Monday morning. The office manager said that their office received "many phone calls with 'nasty and rude and hateful comments' from opponents of the health care bill, but no death threats."

Mark Potok from the Southern Law Poverty Center spoke about the surge of threats and violence against Democratic lawmakers including one whose address was posted online as a target. He stated:

"I think it is astounding that we are seeing this wave of vigilantism," said Mark Potok of the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center.

Potok compared the online posting of a public official's address to tactics used by hate groups.

"This is what neo Nazi leaders in America do today," Potok said. "They post personal information about their enemies and sit back and wait for somebody else to act."

Giffords told MSNBC in March:
"We've had hundreds and hundreds of protesters over the course of the last couple of months," Giffords told MSNBC. "Our office corner has really become an area where the Tea Party movement congregates and the rhetoric is really heated. Not just the calls but the e-mails, the slurs."
I am sure no one from the hate radio airwaves, and no individual in a leadership position who uses phrases like "reload" ever imagined such a tragedy could take place. Certainly, they join others in condemning it.  But it is time for people who have influence over others to carefully phrase their words and stop all inflammatory rhetoric.

Rep. Giffords won re-election over Tea Party-backed candidate, Jesse Kelly. In June, Kelly held a political fundraiser at a shooting range. He invited supporters to "Get On Target For Victory In November. Help Remove Gabrielle For Office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly."
I cannot even imagine voting for someone who would sponsor such an event.

It is not surprising that Rep. Giffords' father, Spencer Giffords cried, "The whole Tea Party was her enemy." From the New York Post:
The congresswoman’s father Spencer Gifford, 75, was rushing to the hospital when asked if his 40-year-old daughter had any enemies.
"Yeah," he told The Post. "The whole Tea Party."
He added that politicians constantly faced danger.
"They always get threat[ened]," Gifford said, sobbing. "We don’t really have any information. The police department was supposed to call us but they didn’t."
Rep Raul Grivjalva, who has also been the target of threats ( a bullet was fired through his office window in Yuma) said the following in an interview with Mother Jones:
We never entered [politics] believing that we were taking our lives in our hands...we're feeding anger, hatred, and division for quite a while. Maybe it is time for elected officials and leaders in this country that have been feeding that disease to realize that there are consequences to it. I hope people stop and think that we can be opponents, but we don't have to be deadly enemies…to demonize another person because of a disagreement and to make them expendible is not a democracy, it's not the America I know
[When] you stoke these flames, and you go to public meetings and you scream at the elected officials, you threaten them—you make us expendable you make us part of the cannon fodder. For a while, you've been feeding this hatred, this division…you feed it, you encourage it….Something's going to happen. People are feeding this monster….Some of the extreme right wing has made demonization of elected officials their priority.
There is absolutely no evidence of any connection between the shooter, Jared Loughner and the Tea Party.  However, he may have been politically motivated. The gunman posted a series of YouTube video in which he accuses the government of mind control and brainwashing. He also rambles on about "new currency" and terrorism. (See the videos here.)

May this tragic incident be a wake up call to all elected officials, talk radio commentators and poltical party leaders to carefully choose their phases, campaign slogans and messages so the anger, threats and violence can end.

From CNN:


Anonymous said...

Anyone stupid enough to support Sarah Palin is either a threat to the country or mentally unsound.

Anonymous said...

This is senseless. There is no reason for this violence against this person and entourage.
Best all the politician arm themselves and/or also have police escorts when they hold these functions.(I know Wendy, you will disagree)
If this happened to Fitial it could be somewhat comprehensible. (Not that it should be condoned)

But this Congresswoman has done nothing to warrant this.
And then a child (along with others) are killed also.
It seems like this was just indiscriminate shootings by a young mentally unstable person(s)with a small caliber weapon.(22 cal.)
I wonder what cal. the other person had, and how old?
My condolences to these people's families.
It will be interesting to see what will unfold in the coming days.

Anonymous said...

Her blodd is on Sarah Palin's hands.

Wendy said...

This pictorial post shows the extreme danger of politicians and party leaders using violent rhetoric and suggestive messages to campaign. What is more frightening than the candidate is the fact that the race between him and Rep. Giffords was close.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:25

No elected official should have to be surrounded by armed bodyguards or be armed to protect themselves. Is this what our country has become? A crazy and dangerous battleground? You are right, I do not believe in guns in any form. Why should anyone have possession of a semi-automatic weapon, which was what was used in this horrible incident? The man was reloading when he was tackled. No one in the U.S. is safe as long as anyone and everyone can own a gun. It was reported that during the health care debate a gun was found after one of the town hall meetings of this very same Member of Congress! Should people be allowed to bring guns to public meetings? (I wrote about this in a previous post.)

Wendy said...

Anonymous 7:25 continued...

The politicians, candidates and hate radio nasties who promote violence, even in subtle ways, need to take some responsibility and stop spreading anger and riling up people. We have a toxic political culture in the US. It is not okay to spit on Members of Congress, to threaten them, to make racist or religious slurs about any of them. It is not okay to use gun references when talking about defeating politicians in an election. It crosses the line. We need to eliminate this poisonous cloud of hatred that is hanging over our country. I think everyone agrees we need to come together.

Anonymous said...

Good Luck. As long as there are Political CAMPAIGNS with big WAR CHESTS that BOMBARD the airwaves with ATTACK ads and ARMIES of volunteers that BLITZ on the phone and at homes and WAR ROOMS with people trying results, then I think we will continue to have these references.

Anonymous said...

12:05 Your references were not putting a named person/s as a TARGET/S in CROSSHAIRS and telling followers to RELOAD. People of all political parties and persuasions are denouncing the hateful rhetoric.

"When politicians and news commentators use nasty, violent rhetoric, it revs up the base and it fills campaign coffers, but there are repercussions," said Daniel Shea of the Center for Political Participation at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa. "No one wants to make a direct connection between this fellow's actions and a single political speech or event, but we have to worry about the climate."

Yes --good luck to peaceful people calling for unity and an end to hatred, anger, ego-drive hate radio instigators and nasty political attacks that divide and shred democracy. Good luck to people calling for a sane climate.

Anonymous said...

Karma = The federal judge who was killed, was one who shot down significant parts of the "Brady Bill", which would have helped keep guns out of the hands of nutcases, like the one who shot him.

Anonymous said...

It's not karma. Explain why a little girl was gunned down, why the Congresswoman was shot, why every innocent victim everywhere is hurt? It was the act of a mentally ill guy who was influenced by vitriol from tea party whackos:

Anonymous said...

Karma? Possibly.

Ironic? Certainly.

Sad? Most definitely.

Anonymous said...

These anti-Palin comments are sounding a lot like the far left ultra liberal version of Fox News. Embellish and spin.

Anonymous said...

Those “crosshairs” on Palin’s map are a surveyor’s symbol.

Speaking of alleged incitement and provoking CNMI vigilantism under the guise of populism, 5 of 6 comments on your next blog post (made before you posted this one) actually fall under this topic.

If you don’t know how, maybe Angelo can help or explain how to move them to this post.

Wendy said...

Thanks 3:45 Yes, the comments are there because the first person wrote a comment about this topic before I posted this post. Yes, I know how to move them, but people can read them there. It's okay.

Anonymous said...

The mentally unstable shooter was transfixed on Congresswoman Giffords since 2007, well before Sarah Palin became part of the national scene.

Why don't you give the same prominence to the "target" map on the Daily Kos?

Your bias is showing.

Wendy said...

Anonymous 9:13

Are you addressing me? If so:

1. He met with her in 2007. There was no mention of him being "transfixed." He refuses to cooperate with investigators. Whether he was influenced by the hatred or not, it needs to be toned down now.

2. Because I did not read that article on the Daily Kos today, but after looking at it I see that you need to actually read the accompanying article to understand what that is about.

Anonymous said...

Your article is full of baloney. This incident HAD NOTHING to do with Sarah Palin, whom by the way I do not support as a major political candidate.

For once, just once, you need to take off your extremist liberal bias colored glasses and try, just try, to present an objective article. jeez!

Anonymous said...

to 8:28
Tea Party? If you look at what he wrote he said that he was mad that she was on of the ones who voted against Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader. Looks like he did not think she was liberal enough. Anyway, he is a nut. There is the myth of the violent right wing. If you look at the most of the violent protests they involve left wing, not right wing folks.
The Guy that flew his plane into the IRS building-Left wing. Liberals have burned down Hummer dealerhips, destroyed AM radio towers, destroyed property at G8 and G20 summits. They have folks like Bill Ayers and the Black Panthers. Right Wing: Abortion Clinics.
I don't like the way the media portrays these guys. Can you imagine someone that is lonely and a loser looking at this an saying, "Wow, that could be me on TV. Look Ma, don't I look good!! People care about me and want to know what I think. This is great". Like I said, a nut.

Anonymous said...

The ultra left wing Democrats will use this to attack conservatives, Republicans and anyone who is against Obamacare. Sickening. Sarah Palin had nothing to do with this tragedy.

Anonymous said...

9:32 Start reading more than this blog. There are hundreds of members of the media, politicians and citizens who think it was wrong of Palin to use her target and gun references. Read this too -

This article is objective. Maybe you need to put on glasses.

It's not your money! said...

This is not about being left-wing or right-wing, it is about being a grown- up. There are politicians in the CNMI that I despise, but I know it would be irresponsible to publicly state we should "reload" and target them. There are angry, crazy people out there who might act on such statements. Of course Palin didn't intend for anyone to actually get shot, but if I were her, I'd regret having used such rhetoric, and I would be careful not to say such things again from my bully pulpit. That's what grown-ups do. We admit we made a mistake, we apologize, we try to do better.

Anonymous said...

The Repugnicans are on the run. Yee haw.

Keir said...

Self-appointed and elected leaders, who have a responsibility to serve all people respectfully and responsibly. Instead of calling on us to be 'armed and dangerous' or to 'reload', and instead of name-calling and conspiracy theories, elected leaders ought to be bringing people together to solve the major challenges we face.

Anonymous said...

We are always, repeat ALWAYS, going to have people like this. Sanatizing our language is not really going to help much because the insane just don't care. And by the way, why are we concerned about common political language that has been used forever when we have the most violent video games available that allow players to kill cops being used by 8 year olds?

Anonymous said...

The solution is greater honoring of Second Amendment rights and traditions, not less.

The marijuana-smoking, left-wing fringe crackpot got off 31 shots. If even one other person present were armed and able to act in defense of self and others, many lives could have been saved.

Anonymous said...

"9:32 Start reading more than this blog. There are hundreds of members of the media, politicians and citizens who think it was wrong of Palin to use her target and gun references. Read this too -

This article is objective. Maybe you need to put on glasses."

I don't need to read MSNBC or the fools from the NY Times to get my facts or impressions. This has NOTHING to do with Palin. The kid is a nut-job, plain and simple. If you want to so eagerly place blame based on your political bias, go right ahead and leave on your blinders, but don't insinuate I have an agenda here, as you do.

It's not your money! said...

Nut job or not, it is irresponsible for anyone to suggest that it's okay to shoot people because of their political beliefs. Grown-ups don't do that. Sarah Palin is either not a grown-up, or she uses such rhetoric to ramp up her supporters for her own financial gain, ego, or both. Ditto Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and anyone with an NRA sticker on their butt.