Americans were plunged into a state of national mourning this weekend when reports of a mass shooting outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona surfaced on Saturday. In the end, six people were killed, including a federal judge and a 9 year-old child born on September 11, 2001, and 14 were wounded. The target of the attack is believed to be U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head when the alleged shooter, 22 year-old Jared L. Loughner, went on a rampage that authorities are calling a premeditated assassination attempt. It has even been described as the worst instance of domestic terrorism since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
After being shot in the head at point-blank range, the Democratic congresswoman is in critical condition, but against all odds is currently expected to survive. According to Ms. Giffords’ neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael Lemole, the bullet avoided critical areas of the brain when it entered from the back of her skull, passed through the left side and exited through the front of her head.
Police say Loughner, described as a social outcast with ties to hate groups, has so far refused to cooperate with investigators. However, an envelope found in his home had the words “I planned ahead,” “my assassination,” and “Giffords” handwritten on it. He will appear in a Phoenix courthouse on Monday.
While it is believed that Loughner acted alone, the shooting rampage has set off a national debate about the vitriolic tone of U.S. politics. Ms. Giffords’ name had appeared on Sarah Palin’s list of 20 Democrats who had voted for health care reform with crosshairs appearing over their districts. Sherriff Clarence W. Dupnik sparked further partisan controversy when he called Arizona “the Tombstone of the United States of America,” and criticized the state’s firearms law during a press conference.
President Obama led the nation in a moment of silence on the South Lawn of the White House at 11 a.m. EST on Monday.