Congressmember Lois Capps described Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords — shot in the head this weekend by gunman Jared Lee Loughner — as “an ideal member of Congress” and a moderate who did a good job representing a very conservative district. Capps said she knew Giffords well and was happy to attend a fundraiser held on her behalf in Santa Barbara this past fall by a couple of wealthy Arizona transplants. Capps declined to say to what extent the “crosshair” campaign imagery deployed by Sarah Palin during the last round of elections might have helped instigate the shooting, but said she hoped the incident would be “a wake-up call for all of us to stop and think.” Capps said the tone of debate has grown more personal and destructive during the 14 years she’s been in office, adding, “People should realize words have consequences; words can hurt us. I’m not saying there’s a cause and effect here, but words can create a climate.” She also said the shooting — which left 20 people wounded (including Giffords) and six dead — highlighted the failure of the mental health system and the ease with which anyone can obtain lethal weaponry. “Why is that someone who gets kicked out of his community college because he’s unbalanced have such easy access to firearms?” she asked. As a member of Congress, Capps said she needs to remain accessible to constituents. When asked what, if any, precautions she might be taking in response to the shooting, Capps said, “I’m not going to pack heat,” adding, “but I think a couple of my colleagues will.”


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