Fighter for health care & education, Giffords now battles for her life
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the alleged target of the attack on her constituent meeting outside a Safeway supermarket in Northwest Tucson on Saturday, is fighting for her life at University Medical Center in Tucson after having been shot “through and through” in the head.
Six people were killed in the attack, and 13 others were shot, authorities said.
Giffords, a third-term Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives who has represented Arizona’s 8th congressional district since 1997 and who describes herself as “a former Republican,” has taken stances throughout her career that have attracted criticism – and praise – from both ends of the political spectrum.
Born in Tucson on June 8, 1970, Giffords is the third woman to be elected to represent Arizona in Congress, and she is the state’s first Jewish congresswoman.
Her husband, Mark E. Kelly, whom she married in November 2007, is a U.S. Navy captain and an astronaut who most recently commanded the space shuttle Discovery in 2008. He is the commander of the Endeavour, slated to launch on April 1 in the final mission of the U.S. space shuttle program.
Giffords’ political career began when she was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2001, where she served until 2003. In 2002 she was elected to the Arizona Senate, at the time the youngest person to have been elected to that body, and she was re-elected in 2004.
She resigned from the Arizona Senate on Dec. 1, 2005 to campaign for the U.S. Congress, and after defeating Republican opponent Randy Graf, she assumed office on Jan. 3, 2007.
In Congress, Giffords currently serves on subcommittees in the Committee on Armed Services, the Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on Science and Technology. As a representative of communities bordering Mexico, she has taken high-profile positions on immigration issues, notably in opposition to Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 legislation requiring law enforcement officials to determine a person’s immigration status “if there is reasonable suspicion the person is an illegal alien.” Critics of the legislation say its enforcement encourages racial profiling.
In keeping with her position as a former Republican and current Democrat, however, Giffords’ position on immigration is nuanced. She called the passage of SB 1070 a wakeup call to the federal government, and she praised the deployment of National Guard units to police the border. She also supported increased funding for the Border Patrol, specifically to enable the implementation of more effective surveillance technologies.
She has been a strong supporter of renewable energy initiatives and public policy support for the renewable energy industry, in particular advocating the continuation of tax credits to purchasers of renewable energy solutions.
Giffords has been an advocate of liberal gun ownership laws, and owns firearms.
On Sunday morning, Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr., chief of neurosurgery at University Medical Center, said Giffords was "responsive to verbal commands" upon arriving at the hospital. As is typical in brain trauma cases, however, she has been put into a coma to mitigate brain swelling and facilitate recovery.
Roberto De Vido is a communications consultant, writer, cartoonist and jack of many trades. The former chief of Tucson Sentinel’s East Asia Bureau, he now lives in California (make of that what you will).