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Emotional House pays tribute to Arizona victims

By LAURIE KELLMAN,Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:20 p.m. HST, Jan 12, 2011



WASHINGTON — Grief-stricken members of Congress paid tribute Wednesday to the victims and the heroes of the Tucson shooting rampage by approving a resolution saluting the dead and one of their own, critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Approved by voice vote, the resolution names the 19 shooting victims — six died — and those who subdued the attacker. The House "stands firm in its belief in a democracy in which all can participate and in which intimidation and threats of violence cannot silence the voices of any American," the resolution read.

Its standard legislative language gave no hint of the security concerns the tragedy sparked in House members and their aides. The shooting of Giffords, the death of aide Gabe Zimmerman and the wounding of others underscored for many the vulnerability inherent in their jobs.

A week into his speakership, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, fought tears as he spoke of Giffords' battle to recover from a gunshot wound to the head.

"Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is not," said Boehner, still shaken from the massacre half a continent away.

"We will have the last word," Boehner declared before the House paused for a private prayer service.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., whose husband was killed and son seriously wounded in the 1993 shooting on the Long Island railroad, said of the rampage, "It's so parallel, it's scary."

"I say to all of you, time will heal you," McCarthy said on the House floor. She added that Giffords would be proud of the members of the House. "She has brought this chamber together. It's just a shame that a tragedy had to bring us together."

President Barack Obama and a bipartisan delegation flew to Arizona to attend an evening prayer service for the victims.

The shooting of a colleague as she met with her constituents underscored for many lawmakers and their staffs the vulnerability inherent in their jobs. As Giffords conducted a "Congress on Your Corner" event in a shopping center parking lot Saturday, a gunman shot her in the head and worked his way down the line of people waiting to talk with her, law enforcement officials said.

The attack ended when bystanders tackled the man, Jared Lee Loughner, 22. Nineteen people were shot, including six who died.

Boehner's voice cracked Wednesday when he referred to Zimmerman, Giffords' community outreach director, as "a public servant of the highest caliber."

"To all the dedicated professionals that we rely on to make this institution work, to each of you, thank you for what you do," Boehner said.

Lawmakers emerging from a security briefing in Washington expressed greater concern for their aides in state offices than themselves in the heavily secured Capitol complex. "They've created a fortress up here," said Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill. "Our government at the district level is vulnerable."

Republicans leaving a briefing with House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood said that he offered practical security advice, such as coordinating with local authorities when they have public events.

Lawmakers are proposing their own ideas.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, said he is drafting legislation to allow members of Congress to carry guns in the District of Columbia.

"Currently, the only non-law enforcement people in D.C. who have guns are criminals," Gohmert said in a statement, adding that he does not plan to carry a firearm in Washington. "Members of Congress should have the right to protect themselves from sudden acts of violence like the heartless shooting in Tucson."

Several Democrats are pushing to roll back the recent 5 percent cut in budgets for individual House members, a fiscally driven move by the new Republican leadership. Others have talked about more stringent gun control legislation. Yet Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said the chances of those bills passing in the GOP-controlled House were "virtually none."

Others have said they would arm themselves. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., said, "I wish there was one more gun that day in the hands of a responsible person."

_____

Associated Press writers Stephen Ohlemacher and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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