PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Three days after a member of Congress, her staff and constituents were gunned down at a public meeting in Arizona, local members of Congress are still in disbelief.
“Gabby Giffords and I came into Congress together in 2006, we’re approximately the same age, we’re friends, and I just can’t believe of all people she would be the target of this,” U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, said.
But officials say U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was the target of Jared Loughner who was charged with five counts of murder and attempted assassination.
On Monday, President and Mrs. Obama led a minute of silence for all the victims and their families.
Giffords invited former Congresswoman Kathy Dahlkemper to share her apartment last month during the lame-duck Congress.
“Obviously I was devastated and shocked,” Dahlkemper said. “It was just horrific. I could put myself in that position because I’ve been very similar settings so many times.”
That concern prompted House Speaker John Boehner to get all members of Congress on a conference call Sunday to talk security.
“There’s manuals already, security manuals, how to handle situations – we’re going to retrain all staff on that,” U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, said. “We’re going to take some other measures here at the office, not only what takes place at the office but when we go to public events.”
But this may also have been an isolated case.
“This is an individual who apparently had it out for her for years, that had stalked her and perhaps attended multiple events in the past, so this wasn’t just a decision on one day,” Altmire said.
Even if this is a unique case, it does not lessen concerns about the safety of members of Congress and constituents who meet with them.
One thing everybody is saying is to lower the accusatory rhetoric by all sides, left and right. Vigorous debate on public policy, say members of Congress, can be done without using language that might incite to violence.