President Obama: Such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society

Earlier today, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in Tucson, Arizona, along with over a dozen other people, at least two of whom have died. On this tragic day, many citizens and media alike are trying to filter fact from fiction. Both the president and the speaker of the House have issued statements condemning the violence.

President Barack Obama takes part in a conference call in the Situation Room of the White House concerning the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Az., Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. Pictured, left to right, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, incoming Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer, and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro. Also taking part in the call were Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FBI Director Robert Mueller (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama takes part in a conference call in the Situation Room of the White House concerning the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Az., Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. Pictured, left to right, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, incoming Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer, and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro. Also taking part in the call were Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FBI Director Robert Mueller (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

From WhiteHouse.gov:

“This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. And while we are continuing to receive information, we know that some have passed away, and that Representative Giffords is gravely wounded.

We do not yet have all the answers. What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society. I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping Representative Giffords, the victims of this tragedy, and their families in our prayers.”-President Barack Obama

President Obama made a short statement to the nation from the White House in a live video address regarding the shooting in Tucson.

The president confirmed the death of at least five people in the shooting in this tragedy, among them federal judge John Roll, and a nine year old girl. [Emphases that follow are mine-Ed.]

THE PRESIDENT: As many of you are aware, earlier today a number of people were shot in Tucson, Arizona, including several who were meeting at a supermarket with their congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords. We are still assembling all the facts, but we know that Representative Giffords was one of the victims. She is currently at a hospital in the area, and she is battling for her life.

We also know that at least five people lost their lives in this tragedy. Among them were a federal judge, John Roll, who has served America’s legal system for almost 40 years; and a young girl who was barely nine years old.

I’ve spoken to Arizona governor Jan Brewer and offered the full resources of the federal government. A suspect is currently in custody, but we don’t yet know what provoked this unspeakable act. A comprehensive investigation is currently underway, and at my direction, Director Bob Mueller is en route to Arizona to help coordinate these efforts. I’ve also spoken to the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House.

Gabby Giffords was a friend of mine. She is not only an extraordinary public servant, but she is also somebody who is warm and caring. She is well liked by her colleagues and well liked by her constituents. Her husband, Mark Kelly, is a Navy captain and one of America’s valiant astronauts.

It’s not surprising that today Gabby was doing what she always does — listening to the hopes and concerns of her neighbors. That is the essence of what our democracy is all about. That is why this is more than a tragedy for those involved. It is a tragedy for Arizona and a tragedy for our entire country.

What Americans do at times of tragedy is to come together and support each other. So at this time I ask all Americans to join me and Michelle in keeping all the victims and their families, including Gabby, in our thoughts and prayers. Those who have been injured, we are rooting for them. And I know Gabby is as tough as they come, and I am hopeful that she’s going to pull through.

Obviously our hearts go out to the family members of those who have been slain. We are going to get to the bottom of this, and we’re going to get through this. But in the meantime, I think all of us need to make sure that we’re offering our thoughts and prayers to those concerned.

Thank you.

Today, the Speaker of the House, the President of the United States, and his opponent from the last election spoke from a united position. From Speaker.gov:

I am horrified by the senseless attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and members of her staff. An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. Acts and threats of violence against public officials have no place in our society. Our prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her staff, all who were injured, and their families. This is a sad day for our country.” – Speaker of the House John Boehner

U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) made the following statement

“I am horrified by the violent attack on Representative Gabrielle Giffords and many other innocent people by a wicked person who has no sense of justice or compassion.  I pray for Gabby and the other victims, and for the repose of the souls of the dead and comfort for their families.  I beg our loving Creator to spare the lives of those who are still alive, heal them in body and spirit, and return them to their loved ones.

“Whoever did this; whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race, and they deserve and will receive the contempt of all decent people and the strongest punishment of the law.” – Senator John McCain

Senator McCain also made the following statement regarding the passing of Chief Judge John Roll:

“I am deeply saddened to hear that Chief Judge John Roll was killed today during the senseless act of violence against Congresswoman Giffords and other Arizonans. Words are inadequate to express such a profound loss to his family, friends, state and country, but it is appropriate to note that a man of great qualities and character was struck down today, and the wickedness of this atrocity, which included the murder of a small child, has broken the hearts of many and will be mourned for years to come. I am proud to have recommended Judge Roll to President Bush for the federal bench in 1991 and have been extremely proud of his work on the bench since then. I am most proud to have called him a friend. Judge Roll dedicated his life to public service and was admired by many for his integrity, kindness and love for the law, for the state of Arizona and our country. He began his career as a bailiff in the Pima County Superior Court and was at his death the Chief Judge for the District of Arizona since 2006. He distinguished himself in every office he held. He will be missed very much. Cindy and I are praying for his soul and for his beloved wife and children and the families of all the victims in this terrible moment of sorrow. Our state has lost a good man, a true and able advocate for justice for all and a great Arizonan. May God grant him perpetual peace.”

The White House blog also linked to statements from Vice President Joe BidenHomeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

Giffords online

Shortly before the shooting, Congresswoman Giffords tweeted that “My 1st Congress on Your Corner starts now. Please stop by to let me know what is on your mind or tweet me later.” The tweet will serve as a poignant reminder of the day. There will be a vigil at the Capitol and in Tucson for Giffords and other victims.

The first quote on Congresswoman Giffords’ Facebook page holds additional resonance today:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, …let us strive on to finish the work we are in, …to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” — President Abraham Lincoln

NPR’s Andy Carvin covered the emerging story using Storify:

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.

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