New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Breaking News: Democratic Congresswoman Shot in Arizona

January 08, 2011 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics

Solar Advocate, Gay Rights Supporter Gabrielle Giffords Attacked in Tucson

Editor’s Note: While remaining committed to finding the positive news in the daily cycle, reality nonetheless intrudes and at times demands our attention. Today’s shooting of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and a Federal Judge who had previously been the target of anti-immigrant protesters, among other victims, is a sobering reminder of the political “climate of fear” that has been fostered here in Arizona.

“Even before the shooting of a U.S. congresswoman on Saturday, the state of Arizona was in the throes of a convulsive political year that had come to symbolize a bitter partisan divide across much of America,” writes David Schwartz in Reuters. “I feel huge sorrow, that’s just been building in southern Arizona for some time, this hate, hate, fear, somewhat around SB 1070, somewhat around healthcare reform. It definitely heated up when President Obama was elected,” said Molly McKasson Morgan, 63, who participated in Tucson politics and knew Giffords. “It’s never been this angry, it’s never been this divisive,” said Alfredo Gutierrez, a former state lawmaker. As Matt Bai has written in the New York Times, “the question is whether Saturday’s shooting marks the logical end point of such a moment of rhetorical recklessness — or rather the beginning of a terrifying new one.”

This report attempts to synthesize the details of today’s shooting and place it in a context framed by Arizona politics. In addition to the fact that the gunman was apparently preoccupied by “literacy” issues, he also listed Mein Kampf as among his favorite books and claimed to be a recent Army recruit. Giffords previously has had her office vandalized, and notably was listed among the 20 congresspersons on Sarah Palin‘s infamous “gun sight” chart that targeted Democratic politicians in a provocative manner. The Tucson Citizen‘s “Three Sonorans” blog is reporting that also today the Mexican-American Studies department at the University of Arizona was vandalized, and that the Federal Judge who was killed had recently been assigned to hear the challenge to the law banning Ethnic Studies in Arizona. Giffords’ Republican opponent in the November 2010 congressional race, Jesse Kelly, was also criticized for a campaign event at a shooting range, advertised with the words “Get on Target for Victory in November,” “Help remove Gabriel Giffords from office” and “Shoot a fully automatic M16.”

We want to express our deepest condolences to all of the families affected by this tragedy, and also to all Arizonans struggling to find cause for hope in these very trying times….

From wire services (Jan. 8, 2011): Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head at point-blank range outside a grocery store in Tucson while holding a public event there, according to several reports. There are conflicting reports about Giffords’ condition, but Reuters is reporting that doctors are “optimistic” about her recovery. NPR has reported that six others were killed and at least nine other people were injured, although this has not been confirmed. CBS News reports that among those 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 happened around 10 a.m. local time as Giffords was speaking at her first “Congress on Your Corner” event at a Safeway in Tucson. Moments before the event, she posted to Twitter: “My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later.”

John M. Roll, the federal judge killed in the shooting, has been at the center of the state’s complicated political battle over immigration. In February 2009, Roll received hundreds of threats after he allowed a lawsuit filed by illegal immigrants against a rancher to go forward. “They cursed him out, threatened to kill his family, said they’d come and take care of him. They really wanted him dead,” a law enforcement official told The Washington Post in May 2009. More than a year after the threats against Roll, Arizona passed what is considered the nation’s toughest immigration law, triggering a fierce national debate over illegal immigration and a lawsuit against the state by the Justice Department. There is no indication at this time that Roll was the gunman’s primary target, and witness accounts describe the shooter as firing at Giffords first.

MSNBC reports that the gunman ran into a “crowded area” and began “firing indiscriminately” as Giffords was talking to a couple. An eyewitness told ABC News he heard 15 to 20 gunshots and saw people running and screaming. Andrea Gooden, a witness who was working across the road from the scene, said: “I heard about 15 shots. Then there were people racing across the parking lot.” Another witness, Steven Rayle, who was on the scene at the time of the shooting and helped pin the suspect down until the police arrived, said: “The event was very informal. Giffords had set up a table outside the Safeway and about 20 or 30 people were gathered to talk to her. The gunman, who may have come from inside the Safeway, walked up and shot Giffords in the head first.”

The suspect, identified by the Associated Press as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner of Tucson, had an apparent preoccupation with “literacy” rates, and in online profiles lists among his favorite books Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto. In a recent YouTube video, Loughner describes himself as a U.S. military recruit who had recently filled out an application to join the Army. In a message posted on his MySpace account, titled “Goodbye friends,” Loughner said: “Dear friends…please don’t be mad at me. The literacy rate is below 5%. I haven’t talked to one person who is literate.” In a rambling YouTube message referring to a new currency, Loughner said: “I know who’s listening: Government Officials, and the People. Nearly all the people, who don’t know this accurate information of a new currency, aren’t aware of mind control and brainwash methods. If I have my civil rights, then this message wouldn’t have happen[ed].”

A FOX News affiliate in Philadelphia is reporting that the Department of Homeland Security has information suggesting that Loughner may have connections to an “anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic” organization called American Renaissance. The DHS report further notes that Giffords “is the first Jewish female elected to such a high position in the US government. She was also opposite this group’s ideology when it came to immigration debate.” At this juncture, there are conflicting reports about whether Loughner acted alone, although Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has noted that investigators are “not convinced” that he did, according to a report by the New York Post. Dupnik says that Loughner may have come to the parking lot with another person who was “in some way involved.” In a subsequent news conference, Dupnik lamented that Arizona has “become the Mecca for prejudice and bigotry.”

Giffords’ Tucson office was vandalized last March after she voted in favor of President Obama’s controversial health bill, which has been bitterly opposed by the political right. Giffords had been named as a political campaign target for conservatives in November’s elections by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for her strong support of Obama’s reforms. Palin had published a “target map” on her website using images of gun sights to identify 20 House Democrats, including Giffords, for backing the new health care law. The map controversially used actual target markers on locations where these Democrats lived and listed their names. “We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list, but the thing is, that the way that she has it depicted has the crosshairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they have to realize that there are consequences to that action,” Giffords said in an interview with MSNBC last March. “We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of protesters over the course of the last couple of months,” she said. “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.”

At an event in 2009 which was similar to the one Giffords was holding today, a protester was removed by police when his pistol fell to the supermarket floor. Giffords’ Republican opponent in the November 2010 congressional race, Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly, was also criticized for a campaign event at a shooting range, advertised with the words “Get on Target for Victory in November,” “Help remove Gabriel Giffords from office” and “Shoot a fully automatic M16.” Giffords narrowly won reelection to her third term in the House of Representatives — and during the course of the campaign it was revealed that she was one of three Democrats in the nation to receive contributions from MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, resulting in the newscaster’s temporary suspension from the network.

Giffords’ father told The New York Post, when asked if his daughter had enemies, “Yeah, the whole Tea Party.” He added that politicians constantly faced danger. “They always get threatened,” he said, sobbing. According to a report by The Hill, Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips condemned the attacks, but warned supporters that the Tea Party movement would be blamed by political opponents. “While we need to take a moment to extend our sympathies to the families of those who died, we cannot allow the hard left to do what it tried to do in 1995 after the Oklahoma City bombing,” he said. The Tucson Citizen‘s “Three Sonorans” blog is reporting that also today the Mexican-American Studies department at the University of Arizona was vandalized, and that alleged Tea Party members were observed taunting supporters holding a vigil at Giffords’ office. Authorities were also called this evening to that office, where a suspicious package was removed and secured by the bomb squad, according to an AP report.

Giffords has been a strong proponent of solar energy, and has generally been known as a moderate to conservative Democrat among Arizona’s Republican-dominated congressional delegation. Giffords was first sworn in as a congresswoman on January 3, 2007. She is the first Jewish woman and third woman overall in Arizona’s history to be elected to serve in the U.S. Congress. In her first month in office, Congresswoman Giffords voted to support increased federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, raising the minimum wage, endorsing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, and supporting new rules for the House of Representatives targeting ethical issues. Giffords also voted to repeal subsidies to big oil companies and invest the savings in renewable energy. She is a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus and has been noted as “a strong supporter of gay rights.”

“We put our national security at risk by relying on oil from unstable regimes in the Middle East and Latin America,” Giffords told her colleagues in a speech on the House floor during debate on the Clean Energy Act. The act would repeal $14 billion in subsidies given to oil companies and establish a Strategic Renewable Energy Reserve to increase research in clean renewable energy, to develop greater energy efficiency, and to improve energy conservation. Giffords also supported stronger border enforcement and comprehensive immigration reform. She is the only member of the U.S. Congress whose spouse, astronaut Mark E. Kelly, is an active duty member of the U.S. military.

“I am a third generation southern Arizonan and I went off to school, was working for Price Waterhouse in New York City, and was asked to come home to run my family’s  tire and automotive business,” said Giffords in a C-SPAN interview.  “I first got involved with politics because I was frustrated when I was opening up my newspaper every single morning and seeing my great state of Arizona continuing to be at the bottom, whether it be poor-people funding, or mental health funding, or making sure that we could preserve our beautiful open spaces and in life you can either complain about something or you can try to fix it so I decided to run for political office.”

More on this breaking story from wire services can be found here, and we will continue to provide updates in this space as events unfold. We want to express our deepest condolences to all of the families affected by this tragedy, and also to all Arizonans struggling to find cause for hope in these very trying times.

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.

3 Comments to “Breaking News: Democratic Congresswoman Shot in Arizona”


  1. Breaking News: Democratic Congresswoman Killed by Gunman in Arizona http://t.co/XY4yH6r

    1
  2. Breaking News: Democratic Congresswoman Shot in Arizona http://t.co/YdDOg29 initial reports now updated with "optimism" for her recovery

    2
  3. An updated and synthesizing piece today from NCV’s Contributing Editor:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/randall-amster/arizonas-long-dark-night_b_806328.html

    3


Leave a Reply