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Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords Shot at Public Event

Emergency workers gather at the scene of a shooting involving Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Democrat, 8 Jan 2010
Emergency workers gather at the scene of a shooting involving Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona at a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Democrat, 8 Jan 2010

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Nico Colombant

Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, 40, has been shot at a public event on Saturday in her home state.  Several others were killed, including a federal judge and a 9-year-old girl.

The director of trauma surgery at the University of Arizona hospital, where Giffords was taken, said he is optimistic about her recovery.

FBI agents were rushed to the shooting scene near a Safeway grocery store in northwest Tucson, where Democratic Congresswoman Giffords was hosting a public event to speak with her constituents.

Witnesses say a gunman ran up and fired off 15 to 20 shots.  They say the young man shot the congresswoman in the head, before trying to run off.

Reaction to the Shooting of Representative Giffords

President Barack Obama

"This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded. (More...)

Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner

"I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff.  An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.  Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society.  (More...)

But witnesses say he was tackled by a bystander, and taken into custody.

President Barack Obama released a statement at the White House saying the shooting was a senseless and terrible act of violence that has no place in a free society.    

Right before the shooting, the congresswoman for Arizona’s 8th congressional district had used the micro-blogging site Twitter to write that her first so-called “Congress on Your Corner” event was starting.  She asked people to let her know what was on their mind.

Giffords was re-elected to her third term in November.  Her office was among the politicians whose offices were targeted with vandalism and threats during the health care debate in 2009.

Republican lawmakers who won a majority of seats in the House of Representatives have called for a repeal of the health care reform signed into law by President Obama last year.

Giffords was also one of the lawmakers who was targeted on a map with simulated gun sights for supporting the health care bill on a website run by a political action committee supporting former Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Heated political debates in Arizona, which is on the border with Mexico, have also recently taken place around the issue of illegal immigration.

In an interview with C-Span television, Congresswoman Giffords gave some of her biography and explained why she had gotten into politics.

“I am a third generation southern Arizonian and I went off to school, was working for Price Waterhouse in New York City, and was asked to come home to run my family's  tire and automotive business," said Giffords.  "I first got involved with politics because I was frustrated when I was opening up my newspaper every single morning and seeing my great state of Arizona continuing to be at the bottom, whether it be poor-people funding, or mental health funding, or making sure that we could preserve our beautiful open spaces and in life you can either complain about something or you can try to fix it so I decided to run for political office.”

Giffords recently married astronaut Mark Kelly.

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