Sunday, January 9, 2011

Obama Asks For Country To Honor Arizona Shooting Victims

An alleged gunman has been formally charged in connection with Saturday's shooting on Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Jared Loughner, 22, seen above, was charged with one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two counts of attempting to kill a federal employee in connection with a supermarket shooting in Tucson, Ariz.

Arizona officials were working Sunday to appoint a public defender for him.

Investigators carrying out a search warrant at Loughner's home seized an envelope from a safe containing Giffords' name along with the message, "I planned ahead" and "assassination."

They also found a letter from Giffords to Loughner, thanking him for coming to a "Congress On Your Corner" event in 2007, similar to gathering where the representative was shot through the left side of her head on Saturday.

Giffords remained in critical condition at Arizona's University Medical Center on Sunday. While doctors were encouraged by her ability to respond non-verbally to commands, swelling of the brain remained a concern and Giffords' long-term prognosis was still unknown.

"This side of her brain is the one that controls whether or not she'll be able to put two and two together and say what she wants to. And how well she'll say it also depends upon how much damage has been done to these vital speech areas," said Dr. Arthur L. Jenkins III of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

The six people who lost their lives in the shooting include Arizona's chief federal judge John Roll, Gabe Zimmerman, who was one of Giffords' aides, and the nine-year-old granddaughter of former Mets and Yankees manager Dallas Green.

FBI Director Robert Mueller was in Tucson to coordinate the investigation, and commented on the senselessness of the shootings.

"This was an attack not only against dedicated public servants, but against our fellow citizens, one being a child who was there to learn about how our government works, other members who were meeting their elected officials for the first time, or who were simply running errands on what otherwise would have been an ordinary weekend," said Mueller.

Monday Moment Of Silence

On Sunday, President Barack Obama asked for a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting at 11 a.m. Monday Eastern Standard Time. The president will mark the moment on the South Lawn of the White House with staff.

"It is a tragedy for Arizona and it's a tragedy for our entire country. What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other," said Obama. "So at this time, I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabbie in our thoughts and prayers."

The president had already ordered that flags fly at half-mast for the shootings victims.

Meanwhile, a second man who police originally called a person of interest has been cleared of any involvement. Investigators say questioning revealed the man was only a cab driver who drove Loughner to the grocery store outside where the shooting had occurred.

Politicians Say They Must Still Serve Their Districts

House Speaker John Boehner called the shooting an "inhuman act" and said representatives cannot let it deter them from serving their constituents.

Boehner spoke briefly from the township government building near his home in West Chester, Ohio.

"Public service is a high honor, but these tragic events remind us that all of us in our roles of service to our fellow citizens comes with a risk," said the House speaker. "No act, no matter how heinous, must be allowed to stop us from our duty."

In the wake of the shooting, the House of Representatives will suspend all legislative action scheduled for next week.

U.S. Capitol police are also urging members of Congress to be more vigilant about security.

"We try to tell our staff members to be alert to be courteous but don't be shy about phoning law enforcement if you have to," said Queens Congressman Gregory Meeks.

"The Capitol Police are sending out alerts to members of Congress and urging us to be careful and we will be meeting on the issue next week," said Manhattan-Queens Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

An armed guard is something Maloney says she has never used, but now she and her colleagues are now being forced to reexamine their own safety.

"We obviously have to keep people safe. That's for sure. But there also has to be a balance," said Senator Charles Schumer on CBS' "Face The Nation."

Reaction to the Arizona shooting has been pouring in from politicians across the spectrum, and the news all but took over the Sunday morning talk shows.

As investigators still work to identify a possible motive, several lawmakers addressed the tense political climate.

"One of the grandest of American values is debate. It can be strong debate but it should always be civil," said Schumer. "And when a shooting like this occurs, it sends a chill down the spine of the body politics and maybe what we should be doing now is in a certain sense, this terrible tragedy could be an opportunity for us to come together over our shared values."

"The vitriol has gotten so elevated until people feel emboldened by this," said South Carolina Representative James Clyburn on "Fox News Sunday."

"Sometimes statements are made that are dialed back because it turns out that the motive wasn't what people assumed, so we have to be careful there," said Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake on ABC.

"Of course we want civility instead of incivility and of course we don't want violence," said Republican Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander on CNN's "State Of The Union." "But I think in all of the talk about this, we have to be very careful about imputing the motives or the actions of a deranged individual to any particular group of Americans who have their own political beliefs."

Members of New York's congressional delegation also continued to be shocked and saddened by the shooting. While they said they will continue to get out and meet with constituents, they are urging politicians to refrain from negative campaigning and over-the-top language.

"Words matter, and those who use inflammatory rhetoric to achieve cheap political gain weaken the entire fabric of our democracy," said Manhattan-Queens Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

"I do not believe in negative campaigning. It serves no purpose," said Brooklyn Congressman Edolphus Towns. "It creates a problem out there with people who don't understand and they go out there and they do some ridiculous kind of things. So my advice is, let's eliminate negative campaigning, let's deal with the facts, talk about the facts and if we disagree, lets disagree in a very kind of a very wholesome and healthy manner."

Towns, who worked with Giffords for several years, said the country needs more people with her ability to respect different points of view.

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