Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, 40, may be ready to leave the Tucson hospital where she has been recovreing since she was was shot in the head at close range by a man identified as Jared Loughner, 22. The third term Democratic Representative was holding a meet and greet event for constituents at a Safeway in Tucson, Arizona, when Loughner shot her.
Giffords’s mother recently sent an e-mail to friends and family saying, “Everyday Gabby improves and shows higher levels of comprehension and complex actions.” Previously Dr. Peter Rhee, the director of medical trauma at the University Medical Center where Giffords has been since the attack said on Tuesday, “She has a 101 percent chance of survival.”
Loughner became the prime suspect in the spree shooting after videos of him posted to YouTube surfaced where he rants about the government and makes references to government “mind control.” Although he failed to kill Giffords, he did kill six people at the Congress On Your Corner event, including a 9-year-old girl, Christina Greene, who had been born on another tragic date, September 11, 2001, and a federal judge, Chief Judge John Roll of the U.S. District Court for Arizona. Thought to be mentally unstable, it is now believed that he was not motivated by political beliefs.
News reports that Westboro Baptist Church members planned to protest Greene’s funeral on Wednesday, January 12, enraged Tucson residents, and then the rest of the world. The fundamentalist church has staged protests at funerals since that of Matthew Shepard, a victim of anti gay violence, in 1999. Arizona lawmakers scrambled to implement a last minute law forcing protesters to stay at least 300 feet away from the funeral. They succeeded in passing the law, however a Canadian radio station’s offer to let the Westboro church members preach on air for five minutes in exchange for agreeing not to protest Greene’s funeral nullified the issue.
When Loughner was chargned on Monday, Jan. 10, the New York Times reported that it was Judy Clarke, the same attorney who defended Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, who would take charge of Loughner’s defense. Clarke indicated that she plans to move for an out of state judge to handle Loughner’s trial, which is likely to be highly contentious. Loughner will face both federal murder charges as well as non-federal murder charges, which may lead to concurrent trials, or prosecution by Arizona after the federal trial concludes.
Although there has been no confirmation as to Loughner’s motives, for pro-choice activists, the brutal attack on Giffords is a chilling reminder of the murder of Dr. Tiller, an abortion provider who was shot to death on May 31, 2009. Giffords has a track record as being pro choice, with a rating from NARAL (National Abortion And Reproductive Rights League) of 100 percent.
Former vice presidential candidate and Tea Party darling Sarah Palin has taken down her picture of Giffords on a map with a gun target over her. Despite that violent imagery, Palin e-mailed fellow conservative Glenn Beck, who quoted Palin on his show as saying, “I hate violence” and “I hate war.” The vicious crime is likely to cause additional scrutiny on Arizona’s gun friendly laws, which include the right to carry a weapon concealed in bars and restaurants. Palin has continued to speak out, enraging Jews all over America with her use of the term “blood libel.” Blood libel refers to Jews being erroneously charged with murdering Christian children to make matzahs. Giffords is Jewish, which has made Palin’s insistence that she use the term all the more ridiculous and offensive.
Giffords won her third term in the House of Representatives this fall, after narrowly edging out a Tea Party candidate. She also has the distinction of being Arizona’s first Jewish representative. She has been a congresswoman since 2006. In 2007, she married Mark Kelly, a NASA space shuttle astronaut.