Gabrielle Giffords shot: Washington-area congressional representatives say they won't change (photos)
Updated: January 10, 2011 - 11:05 am
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton had an event to attend Saturday evening, and an unstable man in Arizona with a gun wasn’t going to stop her.
“There is essentially no way to be a member of the House and let one incident like this make you stay away from your constituents,” Norton said, hours after a fellow member of U.S. House of Representatives was gravely injured at a constituent event in Tucson, Ariz.
Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat who represents Arizona's 8th congressional district was shot in the head at a public event outside a grocery store Saturday, attacked in a brazen shooting that left several dead or injured.
A 22-year-old was taken into custody following the incident and is due in court today. Giffords was rushed to a nearby hospital and was responding to commands over the weekend, according to media reports. The reports about Giffords' condition, while uplifting, still set a somber tone this weekend in a city shared with the federal government.
“This is not an event that should lead everybody to believe that we’re all under attack,” said Norton, a Democrat who represents D.C. as a non-voting member of the House. “It’s a very unusual event.”
U.S. Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif., told the Modesto Bee that members are being told to “increase their vigilance, and to have more security at our public events.” At a public event in Seattle that occurred shortly after the shooting, U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., delivered a speech with two police officers standing nearby, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The District of Columbia hardly needs another another security reminder these days. Belts and watches are often stripped before residents pass through metal detectors in government buildings. Metro officials have now started random bag checks on the transit system. Most recently, a series of packages with incendiary devices sent to public officials in Maryland and the District of Columbia sparked safety concerns across the region.
Security at the U.S. Capitol in a post-Sept. 11 world is already tight and after Saturday’s shooting, Capitol Police cautioned Hill staffers to stay vigilant.
“The U.S. Capitol Police are directly involved in this investigation,” the agency said in a statement. “As more information is developed, it will be provided. In the interim, all Members and staff are advised to take reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal security.”
Members of the Maryland and Virginia congressional delegations expressed their sympathy for Giffords and the victims. They were largely silent on whether it would alter security protocol. Ben Gerdes, a spokesman for Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Md., said it was too early to tell how things might change. Edwards, who represents parts of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, tries to host two “coffee conversations” and one town hall in her district each month.
“She’s going to continue to be the congresswoman she’s always been,” Gerdes said.
A spokesman for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley directed questions about security to the Maryland State Police. The state police media line rang unanswered Saturday. A telephone message left with Virginia State Police wasn’t immediately returned and a spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declined to comment on security measures, saying only "the governor has constant security."
Capitol Police do not guard members outside of the Capitol grounds, though they do investigate threats against members. Giffords had received threats, and threats against members had increased 300 percent during the healthcare debate, according to Politico.
Because of the hostility many members experienced during the health care debate, some stopped holding town halls and other events in their districts, afraid of both violence and of creating a YouTube-able moment for the opposition. Some switched to telephone- and Internet-based town halls instead.
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