By Ivan Pereira
Queens elected officials, many of whom worked alongside U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), called for the government to crack down on the spread of guns to suspicious people and urged an end to the kind of hateful political rhetoric that targeted the congresswoman before she was critically wounded by a lone gunman.
Several House members from the borough expressed their condolences to Giffords, 40, who was shot in the head at point-blank range Saturday in Tucson while she was holding a public event with her constituents in a parking lot.
The suspected 22-year-old shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, was allegedly fueled by hatred for the government and had targeted the congresswoman during his rampage that killed six and wounded 14, according to investigators. The 9-year-old granddaughter of a former New York Mets manager was among the victims.
Elected officials, such as Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), condemned the shooting and stop the violent rhetoric against opposing parties.
“Guns kill. And those who glamorize gunplay or worship gun ownership do no service to humanity,” she said in a statement.
Giffords, who was re-elected to her third term in November following a bitter campaign against a Tea Party candidate, survived the shot but was listed in critical condition as of press time Tuesday.
Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) worked with her on the New Democrat Coalition Political Action Committee and said she was a kind woman who got along well with members of both sides of the aisle.
“Gabby is more than a colleague. She is a great friend whose dedication to her constituents, country and family is evident to all those whose lives she has touched,” he said in a statement.
The congresswoman, who voted for last year’s health-care package, had been the subject of various nasty campaign ads during the election by the controversial political group, ï»¿including one that appeared on Sarah Palin’s website and Facebook page that used an image of a crosshair on her congressional district.
Palin redirected her Twitter followers to the page with a tweet, “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD!”
A protester left a gun at a meeting she held in 2009 where she discussed the health-care bill, and when it was voted on, someone shot a bullet through the glass door of her district office. No one was apprehended in either case.
Although Palin and other Tea Party members have also expressed condolences and made calls for peace, other leaders like Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) urged caution about using inflammatory language about politics.ï»¿
“The essential features of our democracy is the dynamic of elected officials listening to the issues of our neighbors raise and assembling with them freely in open dialogue without fear, intimidation or violence,” he said in a statement.
Meeks’ office is going to set up surveillance cameras outside his district office in light of the shooting, according to a spokeswoman.
Aside from one of Giffords’ staff members and a federal judge, none the victims who were killed worked for government offices.
The youngest person killed in the massacre was 9-year-old Christina Green, who was interested in politics and wanted to meet the congresswoman face to face, according to her family. She is the granddaughter of Dallas Green, who finished his Major League Baseball career with the Mets in 1966 and eventually went on to manage the team from 1993-96.
He told the Associated Press that he thanked his fans for their prayers and support but said he and his family were “having a hard time” dealing with the girl’s death.
State Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) joined U.S. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Garden City) and other leaders outside the 113th Precinct Monday to call for tighter gun restrictions in light of the incident. The shooter bought his gun legally and McCarthy, whose husband was killed and son critically wounded in a 1993 mass shooting on the Long Island Rail Road, said that in today’s Internet-driven world, words can go a long way.
“It almost gives them permission,” she said of the rhetoric. “They say, ‘I don’t like this person. I’m going to go after them.’”
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.