11:07am

Sun January 9, 2011
Arizona Rampage: Congresswoman, Others Shot

Giffords: A Centrist, A Fighter, A Public Servant

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 10:33 am

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was holding her first "Congress on Your Corner" event of the year when she was shot and critically injured Saturday.

The events allow constituents the chance for a one-on-one meeting with the Democrat. And, says Don Bivens, head of the state Democratic Party, they are one of the reasons Giffords has been able to win elections in a district that's not Democratic.

Giffords was fresh off a campaign victory -- winning her swing district by just 2 percentage points last fall, when dozens of her conservative Democratic colleagues failed.

"People know her. People knows she cares. She knows them," says Bivens, who is a friend of the congresswoman.

That Giffords was attacked in the act of public service made it all the more tragic, President Obama said Saturday.

"Listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors -- that is the essence of what our democracy is all about," he said. "That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country."

A Centrist Democrat

In her first week back to Congress, Giffords filed a bipartisan bill to cut her own salary, and that of her colleagues in the House and Senate, by 5 percent. She was one of 19 Democrats who did not vote for Nancy Pelosi in leadership elections. And not only did the Arizona Democrat jump at the chance to participate in the reading of the Constitution on the House floor with Republicans but she got to read the First Amendment.

The shooting prompted Republicans to postpone all votes scheduled on the House floor -- including on the controversial health care repeal.

Ideologically, Giffords has been at the center of her delegation. She is a supporter of abortion rights, a gun owner who could vote in favor of Second Amendment rights and a solar energy proponent who backed the Democrats' controversial cap-and-trade energy bill last year.

"Gabby Giffords is an energetic, bright, capable representative, and I always enjoyed working with her. She was someone you could work with easily across the aisle," says former Rep. John Shadegg, an Arizona Republican.

'She's Tough'

Last March, around the time of the final health care overhaul vote, Giffords reported damage at her congressional office, and she had reported receiving threatening calls and e-mails.

Back then, Giffords was critical of heightened political rhetoric -- at one point criticizing former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for imagery on her political action committee's website.

"We are on Sarah Palin's targeted list -- but, the thing is, the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district," Giffords said on MSNBC. "And when people do that, they have got to realize that there's consequences to that action."

In a statement Saturday, Palin said she offered her sincere condolences to Giffords and the other victims.

Still, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, a Democrat, echoed concerns about the current political atmosphere in his state.

"People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public by people who make a living off of doing that," he said. "That may be free speech but it’s not without consequences."

But so far it’s in no way clear what -- if any -- motive there was for the shooting. Lawmakers reacting to the shooting most often describe it as an act of "senseless violence."

And when it comes to Giffords' recovery, Rep. Raul Grijalva, another Arizona Democrat, says: "She's not only a fighter, but she’s tough, and I think both those are going to serve her well right now."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is in critical condition today, after a shooting at a constituent event for the Arizona Democrat left six dead and at least a dozen injured.

The news of Giffords' shooting has shocked her fellow lawmakers. And it prompted Republicans to postpone all votes scheduled on the House floor, including the pending, controversial health-care vote.

NPR's Audie Cornish has more.

AUDIE CORNISH: Gabrielle Giffords was fresh off a campaign victory, winning her swing district by just 1 percent last fall, when dozens of her conservative Democratic colleagues failed.

She was holding her first Congress on Your Corner event of the year, where constituents would get the chance to have a one-on-one meeting with her.

Mr. DON BIVENS (Chairman, Democratic Party, Arizona): One of the reasons she has been elected in a district that is not Democratic is because of these events. People know her. People know she cares. She knows them.

That's Don Bivens, a friend of the congresswoman, and head of the state Democratic party.

That Giffords was attacked in the act of public service made it all the more tragic, said President Barack Obama yesterday.

President BARACK OBAMA: Listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors -that is the essence of what our democracy is all about. That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona, and a tragedy for our entire country.

CORNISH: In her first week back to Congress, Giffords filed a bipartisan bill to cut her own salary, and that of her colleagues in the House and Senate, by 5 percent. She was one of 19 Democrats who did not vote for Nancy Pelosi in leadership elections.

And not only did the Arizona Democrat jump at the chance to participate in the reading of the Constitution on the House floor with Republicans, she got to read a coveted amendment.

Representative GABRIELLE GIFFORDS (Democrat, Arizona): The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press.

CORNISH: Ideologically, Giffords was at the center of her delegation. She was pro-choice on the issue of abortion, a gun owner who could vote in favor of Second Amendment rights, and a solar energy proponent who backed the Democrats' controversial cap and trade energy bill last year.

Rep. RAUL GRIJALVA (Democrat, Arizona): She's not only a fighter but she's tough. And I think both those are going to serve her well right now.

Rep. JOHN SHADEGG (Republican, Arizona): Gabby Giffords is an energetic, bright, capable representative, and I always enjoyed working with her. She was someone that you could work with easily across the aisle.

CORNISH: That's retired Republican congressman John Shadegg, and Democrat Raul Grijalva - both from Arizona.

Grijalva and Giffords reported broken windows and doors to their congressional offices around the time of the final health-care overhaul vote last March. And Giffords reported receiving threatening calls and emails.

Back then, Giffords appeared on MSNBC and was critical of heightened political rhetoric - at one point, even criticizing former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin for imagery on her Political Action Committee website.

Rep. GIFFORDS: I mean, they really need to realize that the rhetoric and firing people up, and you know, even things - for example, 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. And when people do that, they've got to realize there's consequences to that action.

In a statement yesterday, Palin said she offered her sincere condolences to Giffords and the other victims.

Still, Democrat and Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik echoed concerns around the current political atmosphere in his state.

SHERIFF CLARENCE DUPNIK (Pima County, Arizona): People tend to pooh-pooh this business about all the vitriol that we hear inflaming the American public, by people who make a living off of doing that. That may be free speech, but it's not without consequences.

CORLEY: But so far, it's in no way clear what, if any, motive there was for the shooting. And lawmakers reacting to the shooting most often describe it as an act of senseless violence.

Audie Cornish, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.