July 24, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Giffords Shooting Becomes an Instant Symbol

Will Seberger/Roll Call
A shrine with candles, flowers and photographs stands outside University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz., on Sunday, the day after a mass shooting that critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six.

Ben McGahee, an instructor at the Pima Community College, which Loughner attended, told the Washington Post Sunday that he had concerns about the young man’s stability.

“I always felt, you know, somewhat paranoid … When I turned my back to write on the board, I would always turn back quickly — to see if he had a gun,” McGahee told the Post.

Loughner ultimately dropped out of the school, and officials warned him he would not be welcome back unless he received mental health help.

Whatever his motives, Loughner appears to have understood what he was about to do well before he reached the Safeway parking lot and began firing. Just before the attack, a message appeared on what is believed to be Loughner’s MySpace page, which read in part, “Goodbye friends. Dear friends ... Please don’t be mad at me.”

Giffords is a centrist Democrat who won a bruising re-election campaign in her heavily Republican district in November. Saturday’s “Congress on Your Corner” event was her first this year, and it suddenly changed the face of the new Congress that was instead expected to be defined by the agenda of the new House Republican majority. Shortly after the shooting, House leaders suspended all legislative activity for this week.

UMC chief neurosurgeon Michael Lemole said Giffords will likely be in the intensive care unit for at least a week and spend several more weeks in the hospital.

“And no doubt there will be a rehabilitative phase, and that could take weeks or months,” he added.

Giffords’ colleagues poured out support for her and raised concerns that her shooting may have been a result of the heated rhetoric that is now commonplace in American political discourse.

“Rep. Giffords was innocently pursuing her interest in serving the public when she was shot in this maniacal act.  America must not tolerate violence or inflammatory rhetoric that incites political violence,” Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) said in a statement Saturday.

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