WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt, urged members of Congress to "have some courage" and face their constituents.
Her comments on Thursday were in response to Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, who this week invoked her 2011 shooting in explaining why he's currently only holding telephone town halls. Gohmert said there are groups "from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology" who are attending town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety.
Gohmert also noted that after Giffords' shooting in a Tucson parking lot, lawmakers were warned that civilians were the most likely to be harmed or killed during public events with lawmakers.
But Giffords said town halls were a hallmark of her tenure in Congress. She noted that her successor in office and her former aide, Ron Barber, also was shot multiple times that day and continued to participate in town halls.
"To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls," the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman said in a statement released by Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization that seeks stricter gun laws.
Giffords was gravely wounded during the attack, which killed six and injured 13. Although she resigned her seat, she remains active on the issue of gun safety and noted that she attended more than 50 public events over the past year. The shooting made speaking difficult for her, so she generally talks only briefly, using extremely short sentences to make her point. She has little movement in her right arm and walks with a limp.
Around the country during this congressional recess week, several Republican lawmakers have faced protests and tough questions about health care and other issues. Several lawmakers are avoiding the events, which are reminiscent of when tea party groups voiced unhappiness about President Barack Obama and his health care overhaul in the summer of 2009.
Gohmert said that when the threat of violence recedes, he'll go back "to the civil town hall meetings I've had in the past to supplement the masses reached in our telephone town halls."