Though we don’t know for sure, it looks like Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 40, the third-term congresswoman from Arizona who was shot point-blank in the head during a “Congress on Your Corner” event in Tucson this morning, is going to survive. Several of the other victims of the gunman’s subsequent bullet-spraying will not be so lucky. Giffords is Jewish—the first Jewish woman to be elected from Arizona—and is a moderate Democratic representing a conservative district along the Mexico border.
We do not yet know if the attempt on her life was politically motivated—the single suspect, a 22-year-old white man named Jared Loughner, is in police custody. UPDATE: He seems to be a fringe sort of character who listed Mein Kampf among his favorite books and had an obsession with currency. So—for now—it seems wise to keep speculation and broader assigning of blame to a minimum. I’ll merely note that Giffords was heavily and particularly criticized by right-wing leaders associated with the Tea Party for her support for health-care reform.
In the most recent election cycle, her Jewishness was briefly made an issue when a Republican National Committee operative questioned her stance on Israel, and referred to her as someone “who claims to be a Jewess.” (In fact, she’s the great-granddaughter of a Lithuanian rabbi.) She supports direct talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and said that a 2001 trip to Israel was “one of the most memorable experiences of my life.” She added, “I got to see firsthand the sacrifices that Israelis make in the name of security because of the dangerous state of affairs there. I will always be a strong supporter of Israel.”
It appears that only two active U.S. representatives have been killed: One, from Arkansas, during Reconstruction; and another, Leo Ryan, in 1978 in Guyana by the cult behind the Jonestown Massacre.