by Max Brantley
Giffords survived the shooting, contrary to early reports. The shot passed through her head. She survived surgery and a doctor at a hospital news conference said she responded to some commands. At 3 p.m. Little Rock time, she was said to be in ICU under anesthesia in critical condition, but doctors were somewhat hopeful about recovery in their remarks. The Pima County sheriff's office said six people were killed and 18 wounded, but the number dead and wounded remains somewhat unclear. CNN says one of those killed was a federal judge, John Roll (the link outlines threats he's endured in the past), and a 9-year-old child also reportedly was among the dead as well as a member or members of Giffords' staff.
President Obama, in a televised news conference, said five people were killled, including Judge Roll. He said Giffords was "battling for her life." He said authorities didn't know what provoked "this unspeakable act." He termed it "a tragedy for the entire country."
The New York Times quotes a witness who said the gunman fired at least 20 shots. The article notes that Giffords' House office was vandalized hours after the House approved health care reform legislation, which she supported. She told MSNBC then that she was not afraid, despite numerous threats. "Our democracy is a light, a beacon around the world" because it effects change at the ballot box, she said, not by violent acts.
Regards a topic addressed by coincidence earlier today, just for the record from opencarry.com
Arizona is one of our "Gold Star" open carry states. There is complete state preemption of all firearms laws, open carry is common and law enforcement is well educated as to its legality.
People with guns may be asked to store their firearms or leave places open to the public in Arizona. Though Giffords has supported some legislation supportive of concealed carry, she earned a D from the NRA for overall voting record, such as support for background checks of gun purchasers at gun shows. There is, of course, no way to know if the shooting today was related to gun issues or other hot-button issues that roil Arizona, such as immigration. Or health care. (Or even the unhappy liberal that the conservatives have dug up who was mad at Giffords for voting against Nancy Pelosi as minority leader.) But we do know a gun carried into a grocery store struck her down.
As I said to a pro-carry lobbyist n the comment thread, the motivation of the shooter has no relevance to a fair question about open carry laws: Does widespread presence of openly carried weapons desensitize people to potential threats from people with guns when they turn up at a grocery store? If somebody strolls into the Kroger in Little Rock carrying a weapon, an alarm would be sounded. In Arizona, not so much. Those with concealed weapons have at least been through a background check.
Gun threats have arisen in Giffords' career before.
Last year, during the summer of Tea Party rage, her staff called police after one attendee at a Town Hall meeting at another grocery store, in Douglas, dropped a gun and threatening calls were made to a union participating in the event.
That has aides, who called police to the event, concerned for her safety.
"We have never felt the need before to notify law enforcement when we hold these events," said spokesman C.J. Karamargin.
One of the callers to the Service Employees International Union said, "I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people's First Amendment rights... That, or you all are gonna come up against the Second Amendment."
Giffords was one of the members of Congress targeted in crosshairs in the infamous Sarah Palin PAC ads. Talking Points Memo reported that Giffords' opponent in a tough reelection campaign last fall, tea partier Jesse Kelly (R), reportedly held an event in June 2010 in which supporters were invited to shoot an M-16 with him to "Get On Target For Victory." Again, the point is not that these events had a role direct or indirect in today's violence. But can we agree such metaphorical speech is dangerously corrosive, whether it played a role in this tragedy or not? See images on jump of Sarah PAC ads. Palin today took down the maps and removed a Twitter post that uttered her famous line, "don't retreat, reload." Why? If such talk shouldn't be discussed in this context, as Republicans are feverishly arguing, why should Palin have anything to feel sorry about or amend?
One Republican crackpot in Northwest Arkansas is madly twittering that this should not be viewed in a political context at all, but only as a senseless act of violence. It's a rare act of violence that is not senseless. But the shooting of a member of Congress is a political act with political consequences, by definition and unavoidably.