PHOENIX — Survivors of the mass shooting at a constituent event hosted by former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords say the latest attack at a congressional baseball practice brought back painful memories of the day six were killed and 13 were injured in what was supposed to be a time for citizens to engage in the political process.
Giffords, who now advocates for tighter gun laws through her political action committee, Americans for Responsible Solutions, she was heartbroken over the latest attack. Giffords was the target of an attack by killer Jared Loughner in Tucson on January 8, 2011, and was severely wounded after he shot her in the head. Loughner is serving life in prison.
“This shooting is an attack on all who serve and on all who participate in our democracy,” Giffords said in a written statement. “May all Americans come together today with prayers for the survivors, love for their friends and family, and the courage to go about everyday making this country its best. Our nation is resilient, and we always come back stronger.”
Former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who at the time was an aide to Giffords and who was also shot, said the Wednesday attack brought back painful memories and was another reminder of how low political discourse has fallen.
“The vitriol, the harsh rhetoric, the personal attacks, they have escalated to a point where I hardly recognize our political process anymore. We have to stop this,” Barber said from his Tucson home on Wednesday.
Barber said President Donald Trump needs to “come out strongly” in favor of civil discourse. Barber said he was thinking about his former colleagues in Congress, especially House GOP Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and his family. He added he hopes the public keeps the families of survivors in mind because they too struggle with the trauma.
Scalise, 51, was listed in critical condition after the early morning shooting at a popular park and baseball complex in Alexandria, Virginia, where Republican lawmakers and others had gathered for baseball practice. Police say 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, a home inspector from Illinois who had several minor run-ins with the law in recent years and belonged to a Facebook group called “Terminate the Republican Party,” was the shooter. Hodgkinson was fatally shot by police.
“This is a time when I hope everyone will put aside political differences. Political violence has no place in our country,” Barber said.
Ken Dorushka, who was shot in the arm while shielding his wife from Loughner, said the latest shooting is a reminder that the government should do more to keep weapons out of the hands of mentally unstable people.
“This isn’t a political issue nor was the one in Tucson,” Dorushka said. “Anybody who would willingly take a gun and shoot somebody is unstable regardless of their political bent.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, was at the shooting Wednesday and tended to Scalise. He is friends with Giffords and rushed from Phoenix to the hospital in Tucson six years ago when he heard she was wounded.
Flake said during an interview with CBS “This Morning” that he reached out to Giffords and husband Mark Kelly on Wednesday.
“Those of us in Arizona remember well that situation a few years ago. So, I sure hope that this (brings) more unity, we need it around here,” Flake said.