Updated: 6:29 p.m.
Members of the Arizona delegation expressed shock and disbelief over Saturday’s shooting of their colleague, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whom they called a friend and a model public servant.
Senior Sen. John McCain (R), traveling in Colombia on a South American Congressional delegation, issued a strongly worded statement and said, “I am horrified by the violent attack” that has left Giffords in critical condition at University Medical Center in Tucson. Giffords, 40, was just elected to a third term.
“Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law,” McCain said.
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who was in-flight heading back to Arizona when the shooting occurred, issued his condolences to Giffords and to the family of federal district Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday.
“We pray for the recovery of Representative Giffords and the others who remain in critical condition,” Kyl said in a statement. “Congresswoman Giffords is also a good friend, and I find it especially saddening that such a heinous crime would occur while she was fulfilling her congressional responsibilities.”
House Members who worked closely with Giffords were overwhelmed with emotion. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and close friend, said he is in a “state of shock” over the news.
“We all entered this life of public service and being elected officials, but we don’t enter with the idea that this is a life-and-death situation,” Grijalva said during a CNN interview.
Grijalva said the horrific incident is a direct result of the “hatred” being generated in the political sphere.
“It’s probably a good thing for us to tone down the rhetoric, tone down the angriness and the mean-spiritedness so people don’t feel they like have like an absolute right to react the way that was reacted against Gabi. You set a tone by your demeanor,” he said.
Former Rep. Harry Mitchell, who served with Giffords in the Arizona state Senate as well, called her “a model Congresswoman.”
“She has also been a true and unwavering friend since our days serving together in the Arizona state Senate, and she is the hardest working and most dedicated public servant I have ever known,” Mitchell said. ”I just can’t believe this has happened.”
Arizona’s GOP Members joined the chorus of praise for Giffords, a three-term lawmaker who represents the southeast corner of the state.
“Congresswoman Giffords is an extremely hard-worker and a fighter, and I pray that those attributes aid her as she receives treatment for her injuries,” Rep. Jeff Flake (R) said in a statement.
Freshman Rep. Ben Quayle (R) said he was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the tragedy.