Gabby Giffords responded Thursday to a Republican congressman trying to use her 2011 shooting as an excuse for why he was not holding town hall meetings while back in his district during recess.
Giffords, a former Arizona congresswoman, was shot at a constituent meeting held in a supermarket parking lot six years ago. She dismissed the assertion of Republican Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., who claimed earlier this week he couldn’t meet with constituents in his district due to safety concerns.
“I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public,” Giffords said in a statement. “Ron Barber – at my side that Saturday, who was shot multiple times, then elected to Congress in my stead – held town halls. It’s what the people deserve in a representative.”
Some Republicans have been shying away from constituents while at home over Congressional recess, avoiding crowds of people expressing anger over the first month of the Trump administration and negative television footage.
Gohmert’s constituents were demonstrating in Tyler, Texas on Tuesday and wanted to hold a town hall meeting with him. The congressman responded with a statement later that day, explaining why he wouldn’t be holding that meeting.
“Unfortunately, at this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety. Threats are nothing new to me and I have gotten my share as a felony judge,” Gohmert said. “However, the House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at Congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed—just as happened there.”
Six people were killed in the shooting that wounded Giffords, leading her to retire from Congress and become an advocate for stricter gun laws.
Gohmert used what has become a Republican talking point accusing constituents at town hall meetings and people demonstrating in the streets of being “paid protesters.” The White House has asserted that protests have been “planned out by liberal activists” but has provided no evidence that anyone is being compensated for their participation in a demonstration.
Gohmert also claimed he could reach more people with telephone town halls than traditional face-to-face interactions with his constituents.
“The telephone company assures us that all of the people participating on our telephone town halls live right here in east Texas and I will have likely have had over one hundred thousand people in our district participate by the time I finish this new round,” Gohmert said. “Then, when the threat of violence at town hall meetings recedes, we can go back to having the civil town hall meetings I’ve had in the past to supplement the masses reached in our telephone town halls.”