Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford and several others were shot this morning outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson by a gunman during a public event held by Gifford.
In total, there were 19 victims of the shooting. Five victims died at the scene and one died at the hospital. Gifford was among those injured. Though there were early reports that Gifford had been killed, she was actually undergoing surgery for a gunshot wound to the head. Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said that he believed Gifford was the target of the shooting.
In a press conference a medical official in Arizona said he was “very optimistic” about Gifford’s recovery, and that she had been shot in the head “through and through.” She is now out of surgery and under anesthesia.
Gifford’s office has no been cleared because a suspicious package was found.
According to NPR the gunman ran up and began shooting “indiscriminately” from point blank range. It was reported early in the day that someone in the crowd returned fire, but this has been confirmed as false. The suspect, however, was tackled by someone in the audience as he fled the scene. The shooter has been identified as Jared Laughner, a 22-year-old white male.
His final words on his myspace page before it was taken down were “Goodbye friends.” It is reported that he has a personal Youtube page (linked here), where he complains that most people are illiterate and have not read the Constitution, and says that the government is using “mind control” on the American people by controlling grammar.
Laughner has been described as “disturbed” by classmates and it is said that he often caused trouble at the Pima County College he was attending. He also made an attempt to join the Army in December of 2008. First Sgt. Brian Homme, who oversees Army recruiting in Tucson said that Laughner was sent to Phoenix to take a test and a physical but “was found to be unqualified so he never joined the army,” reported the Arizona Daily Star. The reason he was unqualified was not released.
Dupnik said that there is “reason to believe another person is involved,” and that this person is a white male probably in his fifties. The accomplice did not fire any shots, but may have been involved in another way.
CNN reported that the gun used in the shooting was a semi automatic 9mm pistol with an extended magazine.
The Washington Post is providing live video coverage of the press conferences.
Federal Judge John Roll has died from gunshot wounds. Roll had faced death threats in 2009 after presiding over a $32 million dollar civil rights lawsuit, and were given protection detail for about a month. Dupnik said that Roll had gone to mass and decided to stop by the event because he was a friend of Gifford’s.
Gabe Zimmerman, Gifford’s director of community outreach, has also died from his injuries. He was 30 years old and engaged to be married.
A 9-year-old girl who was invited to the event by her neighbor because she had just been elected to her school’s student council was also killed.
House Speaker John Boehner said he was “horrified” by the shooting. “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve,” he said. “Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society.”
In a press conference this afternoon President Obama said that under his direction FBI director Robert Mueller was on his way to Arizona. He described Gifford as a friend who was well-liked by her colleagues and her constituents.
“Its not surprising that today, Gabby was doing was she always does: Listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors,” said Obama. He described the situation as a “tragedy for Arizona, and a tragedy for our entire country,” and also said that Gifford is “as tough as they come” and expressed hope that she would recover.
Arizon’s governor, Jan Brewer, also described Gifford as a friend and called the shooting “senseless and cruel violence.” She has ordered flags to be flown at half staff in honor of those that lost their lives.
Gifford was elected in November of 2006 and began her term in 2007. She is a member of the Democratic Party and is Arizona’s first Jewish congresswoman. She is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and voted for the bill that eventually struck down a gun ban in Washington D.C. She is also pro-choice, and has received a 100 percent rating from NARAL, and is a staunch proponent of border security.
Gifford recently read the First Amendment on the House floor during the complete reading of the Constitution. The First Amendment includes the right to peaceably assemble, which is what she and her constituents were doing this morning when the gunfire broke out.
The vote on the healthcare bill as well as all other votes have been postponed for the entire week because of the shooting.
Gifford has two children and is married to astronaut Mark Kelly, who served in Desert Storm and is currently a captain in the U.S. Navy.