Gabrielle Giffords

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Official portrait

Gabrielle Giffords (born June 8th, 1970) is an American politician who has served as a Democratic Representative for the 8th Congressional District of Arizona in the lower house of the U.S. Congress since 2007. Her official biography lists her priorities as "...solar energy, immigration reform, and the needs of military families and veterans. Consistently ranked as one of the most centrist legislators in Congress, she is a strong supporter of fiscal responsibility, bipartisanship and government accountability."[1] She is a member of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

She is married to Captain Mark Kelly, a Navy Pilot and NASA astronaut, and is the only U.S. Representative with an active duty military spouse.

She is a proponent of the rights of gun owners, and herself keeps a pistol, viewing it as an "Arizona tradition."[2]

On January 8th, 2011, she was shot through the head by a gunman using a legally-purchased firearm.[3] The incident, which claimed the lives of six people, occurred as Giffords met her constituents near Tucson, Arizona.

2011 shooting

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), said she told him of a concern for violence, saying "Gabby did tell me that she was concerned. She did say it's really bad out there, particularly in a district like [hers]. She was very much troubled that Sarah Palin put her in the crosshairs." [4] This referred to Giffords' inclusion in a list of 20 Democratic incumbents, all Members of Congress in districts taken by the McCain-Palin campaign, as special targets for replacement in 2010.On her Facebook page, the districts were shown on a map, under crosshairs reminiscent of a gunsight. [5] "Maybe when they join the millions of unemployed, they'll understand why Americans wanted them to focus on job creation and an invigorated private sector," she wrote. "Come November, we're going to print pink slips for members of Congress as fast as they've been printing money." [6] Her Facebook page listing them, however, put a target on each district, symbolism that has been criticized as inviting violence, along with her slogan, "Don't Retreat - Reload". Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine's accused "Republican leaders are themselves engaging in actions and rhetoric that previously would have been limited to fringe elements of the Republican Party. Sarah Palin has invoked health care 'death panels' and has now placed gun sights on 20 Members of Congress who supported reform."

Jared Lee Loughner, the suspect in custody, was tackled by bystanders. According to the Washington Post, he confronted Giffords at a 2007 meeting, and "but YouTube videos and other Internet postings under his name suggest an addled young man obsessed with convoluted anti-government grievances, including ramblings about currency policies and mind control. His list of favorite books includes Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto" [4]

On CNN's "State of the Union," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) mentioned Palin's language as an example of "violent images and violent words" that contribute to a toxic political environment. Durbin stopped short of explicitly linking such language with the Tucson shooting, however: "I don't think you can ever make the direct connection," he said. On the same program, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) warned against prematurely linking him to Tea Party movement or other political groups. "I think in all of the talk about this, we have to be very careful about imparting the actions of a deranged individual" to other groups, Alexander said. But he agreed that politicians and commentators "ought to cool it, tone it down" and "do our best not to inflame passions."

Committees and caucuses

2010 Election

In the last Congressional election, she opposed Jesse Kelly, who was supported by national Tea Party movement groups and defeated former state Sen. Jonathan Paton in the August 24 primary. While she was a favorite going into the election, her poll numbers steadily declined as Kelly tied her to the Washington incumbents. Kelly served as a United States Marine Corps sergeant in the Iraq War.

She countered with advertisements saying "he's a risk we can't take", and mentioned his opposition to the U.S. Department of Education, as well as Medicare and Social Security. The largest contributor to his campaign was the 60 Plus Association, whose causes include privatizing social security.

Acccording to the Arizona Republic, however the defining issues between the two dealt with immigration policy.[7] Both favored increased border security, but Kelly charged Giffords had not done enough. The district includes 114 miles of the border with Mexico.

On the evening of the shooting, Kelly's website bears the statement,
In the wake of this stunning tragedy, my prayers are with Rep. Giffords, her husband Mark and the rest of her family. May God's strength comfort her as we pray together for her recovery. We mourn for those who lost their lives in this horrible act.
Senseless acts of violence such as this have absolutely no place in American politics.

Education

  • Master’s Degree in Regional Planning from Cornell University
  • B.A. from Scripps College where she was awarded a William Fulbright Scholarship to study for a year in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Footnotes

  1. Biography, U.S. House of Representatives
  2. Arizona Capitol Times at findarticles.com: 'Arizona Democrats split on DC gun ban'. March 21st, 2008.
  3. Huffington Post: 'Gabrielle Giffords shooter's gun purchased legally.' January 8th, 2011.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Dan Eggen (9 January 2011; 2:47 PM), "Gabrielle Giffords battles for her life; shooting casts grim light on U.S. political discord", Washington Post
  5. "Sarah Palin's PAC Puts Gun Sights On Democrats She's Targeting In 2010", Huffington Post, 24 March 2010
  6. Brian Montopoli (23 March 2010), "Sarah Palin Unveils Target List for Midterm Elections", CBS News
  7. Erin Kelly (8 October 2010), Arizona Republic