Saturday, January 8, 2011

A gunman shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in the head on Saturday, critically wounding her, killing six people and wounded another 11 at an event the congresswoman was holding in Tucson, Ariz.

Dr. Peter M. Rhee at University Medical Center in Tucson said Ms. Giffords was out of surgery Saturday afternoon, countering initial reports that she had been killed. Asked about her chances for recovery, Dr. Rhee said he was “about as optimistic as you can get in this situation.”

President Obama, in a statement, called it “a tragedy for our entire country” and asked Americans to “come together and support each other.”

“We are going to get to the bottom of this, and we are going to get through this,” he said.

He said one of those killed was U.S. District Judge John Roll, while another was a 9-year-old girl.

A Pima County Sheriff’s spokesman said the suspect was 22 years old and had one prior minor run-in with the law as an adult. Several press reports identified him as Jared Lee Laughner.

A YouTube page registered to a Jared Lee Laughner from Tucson contains several rambling videos of written messages complaining about the government, “mind control” and what he called “federalist laws.”

One video posted in mid-December ends: “In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can’t trust the current government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar. No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver! No! I won’t trust in God!”

Mr. Obama said he has deployed FBI Director Robert Mueller to the scene to coordinate the investigation, while local authorities said they are still looking into whether anyone else was involved.

Ms. Giffords, 40, who was just sworn in to her third term in the House on Wednesday, was holding a “Congress on your corner” event at a Safeway supermarket in Tucson when the gunman ran up and opened fire, shooting her, some of her local staffers and others.

Ms. Giffords’ colleagues condemned the attack, with new House Speaker John A. Boehner saying “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,” Mr. Boehner said in a statement Saturday afternoon. “Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country.”

Several lawmakers laid blame for the incident at the feet of increasingly harsh political debate.

“Rep. Giffords was innocently pursuing her interest in serving the public when she was shot in this maniacal act,” said Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, New Jersey Democrat. “America must not tolerate violence or inflammatory rhetoric that incites political violence.”

The shooting happened at the beginning of her event, scheduled for 10 a.m. local time. Just beforehand, Ms. Giffords sent out a notice on Twitter to announce the event was beginning: “My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later.”

Ms. Giffords’ husband is astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark E. Kelly, and he is training to be commander of a space shuttle mission in April.

Ms. Giffords, who is part of a group of conservative-leaning Democrats in Congress, just won a tough re-election bid in November.

This week, she joined her colleagues in being sworn in again in the House, and seemed touched when Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, gave her the honor of reading the First Amendment during the Republicans’ reading of the Constitution on the House floor on Thursday.

That amendment protects the rights of Americans peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government.

She also introduced a bill to cut the pay of members of Congress by 5 percent.

Her district covers the vast expanse of the southeastern corner of Arizona, and is home to several major military bases. It also includes a large stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border and some of the most active smuggling routes in the country.

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