Updated at 6:44 pm: Texas lawmakers are reacting with shock to a shooting in Tuscon, AZ that killed at least five people including US District Judge John Roll and critically injured US Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. NPR reports the suspected gunman has been taken into custody.
Giffords, who was re-elected to a third term in November, was hosting a "Congress on Your Corner" event at a Safeway in northwest Tucson when a gunman ran up and started shooting, according to Peter Michaels, news director of Arizona Public Media.
The suspect fired indiscriminately from about four feet away, Michaels said. A congressional official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that the gunman was using an automatic weapon.
US Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) was with Giffords the day before the shooting to discuss the healthcare repeal.
"You know what she was doing is basically the same thing I do on a regular basis throughout Central Texas," Doggett told KUT News in a phone interview.
"That's hold neighborhood office hours at and grocery store or a farmer's market, whatever - to engage with people. It's what the heart of democracy is about and it's just tragic when something like this occurs. There's a loss of light here as people are involved in what is the heart of democracy," he said.
US Congressman McCaul (R-Austin) also spoke to KUT News by phone and said the shooting raises legitimate security concerns for all politicians.
"Obviously there's still a terrorist threat against the Capitol being a target, but we're very secure up here," McCaul said. "It's when you go back home, you know with a more angry electorate, I think we're more vulnerable.”
“The security isn't there. And I think what will come out of this is, you're probably going to see a little more ramped up security for members when they have public events like this,” McCaul said.
The junior US Senator from Texas, John Cornyn, offered words of condolence in a statement released this afternoon:
“My prayers go out to Rep. Gifford (sic), her family, staff and all those affected by this horrific tragedy. I hope those responsible for this senseless crime will be brought to justice as swiftly as possible,” Cornyn said.
The senior US Senator for Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison, posted this status update to her Facebook profile.
I am deeply saddened by the senseless attack in Tucson, Arizona, today. My thoughts and prayers are with Rep. Giffords, her staff, and all of the innocent victims and their families who have suffered this tragedy. There is no place for this unspeakable violence in our society.
US Congressman Michael McCaul (R-Austin) issued this statement:
"This is a tragic day for Gabrielle and her family, the Congress and for the United States. While the circumstances of this event are not yet clear, violence such as this cannot and will not be tolerated by the American people. Gabrielle is a friend. We have worked together on many legislative issues before the Science and Technology Committee including NASA and Solar energy. She has done an outstanding job representing the interests of her district in Arizona and the nation. My thoughts and prayers are with Gabrielle, her family and others who were savagely shot today including members of her staff."
Marc Winkelman, an Austin philanthropist and CEO of the specialty store chain Calendar Club, is a friend of Giffords.
“She loves Austin,” Winkelman told KUT News. “She loves to come here, and visited half a dozen times over the past 4 or 5 years.’
Winkelman says before Giffords was elected to Congress, she had considered attending the law school at the University of Texas at Austin.
Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly, an astronaut from New Jersey who has piloted space shuttles Endeavour and Discovery, visited Austin in October with their two daughters to attend the Texas Book Festival, Winkelman said.
Winkelman said Giffords didn’t visit Austin with them but she wished she could have.
Kelly, Giffords' husband, is scheduled to command the final launch of the Shuttle Endeavor before NASA's shuttle program is canceled this year.