Jan. 10, 2011
BOSTON — U.S. lawmakers are offering their thoughts and prayers after a gunman opened fire on Saturday in Tuscon, Ariz., killing six people and wounding fourteen others, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The Democrat was greeting constituents outside a Safeway grocery store when the alleged gunman, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire with an automatic weapon.
Gifford's Massachusetts colleagues say they're shocked and saddened by the news. Rep. Ed Markey, who worked closely with Giffords on energy legislation, described her as a wonderful woman and a consummate politician.
“She is very smart and she’s very nice. She’s also very savvy and tough politically. She has the most wonderful combination of human qualities that you can possibly imagine, and she was destined, and still is, I hope for great things in American politics,” Markey said.
Giffords is a moderate blue dog Democrat from a swing district. She eked out a narrow win over a Tea Party-backed candidate in November. Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank stumped for her on the campaign trail.
Frank said it’s a testament to Giffords' political skill that she was able to hang onto her seat when so many other conservative Democrats failed.
“She held onto it not by backing away from important principles, she held onto it by sticking to what she believed in and honestly and openly defending those views and defending them to the people," Frank said.
What motivated the shooting is still unclear. But Arizona has been the epicenter of bitter debates on illegal immigration and health care. On Saturday, the local sherriff told reporters that the hatred surrounding these debates might have influenced the gunman.
Rep. Michael Capuano said in hindsight, the shooting was probably inevitable. “Many of us were afraid for a long time that something like this would happen, with the level or the tone of the discourse over the last several years," Capuano said. "It's gotten violent and personal.”
Capuano and the other members of the delegation said they hoped hateful rhetoric would come to an end in the wake of this tragedy.