Gabrielle Giffords, 40-year-old U.S. representative from Arizona, was shot in the head at a public event this morning. Several people were killed, including a nine-year-old girl. Police have a suspect in custody.
[Update: I originally wrote that Giffords had been killed; this was wrong, and I apologize for the misinformation. That's what NPR and CNN and other outlets were reporting, and I mistakenly assumed that they wouldn't do so without incontrovertible reason. She is in critical condition following surgery. A doctor at the hospital says he is "optimistic" about a recovery -- please please please let this be true.]
I met Gabby at a reception a year ago. She seemed, on our very brief acquaintance, to be a really wonderful person — energetic, smart, full of optimism about doing good things as a member of Congress. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is an astronaut. If I may step away from the ideal of journalistic objectivity for a moment, this is a stupid fucking tragedy.
When a politician is shot, people will draw political conclusions. In this case, Gabby had been “targeted” by her political opponents using explicitly violent language. Sarah Palin released a map with a target site pointing at her district; her opponent had a “shoot an M16” fundraiser. (Via @mattyglesias.) At the time, various people were horrified at the casual invocation of this kind of violent rhetoric. Is it now inappropriate to link that rhetoric to the actual violence? I have no idea whether her killer was politically motivated in any way — he might have just been an unstable person with no agenda at all. Regardless, it would be good to tone down the language of deadly force in political discussions. Maybe both Democrats and Republicans can agree on that.
My heart goes out to her family and friends, as well as those of the other victims. We need more public servants like Gabby Giffords.