The United States had the unique success of transferring power from one political party to another during the Presidential Election of 1800, marking the first bloodless shift of power in modern history. As a result, assassinations are rare to Americans, and the attempted murder of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a shocking impact this past weekend.
Giffords has been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2007, the third woman from Arizona history to serve in Congress. In her political career, she has tackled many social issues:
- Giffords introduced a program that pairs the FDA with universities and non-profits to work toward drug safety.
- She is a strong supporter of solar energy.
- The politician pressed for military officers to be trained in critical foreign languages and cultural education.
- The Mental Health Association of Arizona named her 2004 Legislator of the Year for her efforts in the issue.
- She voted to raise national minimum wage for workers.
- Giffords promotes Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, encouraging helmet use and discouraging drunk driving.
On the morning of January 8th, Representative Giffords was making an appearance at a supermarket in a Tuscon, Arizona suburb.
"My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later," the politician wrote on her Twitter.
Giffords, U.S. Federal Judge John Roll, and 18 others were shot during the public appearance by 22-year-old local Jared Lee Lougher. Previous to the incident, Loughner had briefly attended Pima Community College, where teachers described him as troubled.
Giffords also had a young person come to the rescue. Her 20-year-old intern Daniel Hernandez is a trained nursing assistant. After her injury, he came to her side and applied pressure to her wound to halt the bleeding. Arizona Representative Steve Farley called the boy a hero that saved her life.
The cause-y angles
Lougher reportedly purchased his gun back in November. He also tried to purchase his a ammunition at Walmart and was refused. He tried again at another Walmart and was successful.
South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn thinks that Nevada Republican Sharron Angle contributed to the incident. After losing a Senate race in 2010, she suggested "Second Amendment remedies," to those upset with her loss.
The National Rifle Association has not commented on the shooting beyond sending thoughts and prayers to victims and families.
The anti-gun organization The Brady Campaign has launched a campaign around the incident, asking people to call for stronger gun restrictions.
Speaker of the House John Boehner issued a statement saying, "An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve."
Violence is never the answer to changing the political climate, and party lines fell as politicians and voters from both sides supported Giffords recovery this weekend.
Pima County Sheriff Clarence W. Dupnik called the assaulter, "a very troubled individual." Interviews from former classmates and teachers reveals that the boy was "weird" and scary to people. Perhaps professional help would've helped Loughner's mental condition.
A teacher from Loughner's community college mentioned the boy's odd behavior in his classroom, suspecting that drugs were involved. An army official has also indicated that the boy failed a drug test when he attempted to enlist in the armed forces.
Despite his inevitable serious punishment, Loughner is still receiving a trial today. He will be represented by well known federal public defender Judy Clarke, who has also represented bomber Ted Kaczynski.
What can you do?