Last Saturday's attempted assassination of Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords left her along with a dozen others injured and 6 dead including Federal District Judge John Roll and Christina Taylor Green, a nine-year-old who, as fate would have it, was born on September 11, 2001. The shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, a 22-year-old with a history of mental illness, is in police custody.
Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat elected to her third-term in the conservative 8th district of Arizona, was gathering at what she called, "Congress On Your Corner," a frequent event where she would meet with her constituents. The event on Saturday January 8th was being held outside a Safeway grocery store. Just minutes before the shooting, Rep. Giffords had sent a Twitter message telling people to come by the event.
According to witnesses, a lone gunman fired off over 30 rounds before being wrestled to the ground as he attempted to reload his Glock 9mm handgun equipped with an extended magazine. A 61 year-old woman by the name of Patricia Maisch reportedly grabbed a new full magazine out of the hands of the shooter as he tried to reload his pistol. Several others including Bill Badger, Roger Sulzgeber, and Joseph Zamudio subdued the shooter until police arrived.
Daniel Hernandez Jr., a 20 year-old intern in Rep. Giffords office, ran to Giffords and the other victims on the ground. It is reported that he checked the wounded and then held Rep. Giffords, attempting to slow the bleeding, before Paramedics arrived.
Immediate reports of the tragedy in Tucson were chaotic and confusing. Numerous media outlets had initially reported that Congresswoman Giffords had been killed in the shooting and speculation as to the motivation of the shooter quickly led to a heated political argument that began in blogs and news and social websites that continued to the mainstream media.
When news first came across last Saturday that a Democratic Congresswoman had been shot in Arizona, rightly or wrongly, those who are involved in politics, or simply follow it closely enough, had a deep sense that the violence in Tucson was the likely outcome of an ugly, bitter, and hostile political environment that has been building over these past couple of years.
For many, the news came as a shock, but hardly a surprise.
(Read Part 2 here)