Gabby Giffords Stresses The Importance Of Courage As Members Of Congress Avoid Town Halls

Rep. Giffords was shot while meeting with constituents in 2001.

Angry constituents flooded town halls during the Congressional recess this past week, making the most of their elected officials' short visit to their home districts to voice their concerns about developments in Washington, D.C. At event after event, lawmakers were challenged on their silent acquiescence to President Trump's executive orders, questioned about their inaction on investigating his ties to Russia, and criticized for their persistence at repealing Obamacare without a replacement plan, among other things. 

Republican lawmakers have faced more raucous crowds, but Democrats, too, have been confronted by distressed constituents. In light of the backlash Republicans are facing at home, Texas Rep. Louis Gohmert explained his decision not to hold an in-person town hall with his constituents. In his statement, Gohmert cited the 2001 shooting that killed six people and gravely injured Rep. Gabby Giffords at a meeting with her Arizona constituents. He also echoed the unfounded claim that some of these town hall attendees were paid.

On Thursday, Giffords responded with a statement of her own:

Town halls and countless constituent meetings were a hallmark of my tenure in Congress. It's how I was able to serve the people of southern Arizona. I believed that listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenet of the job I was hired to do. I was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning my offices were open to the public. 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.

Barber was a former aide of Giffords, who later succeeded her in office. Giffords also pointed out that she has held more than 50 events in the past year while campaigning for gun safety with her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly. 

Many Republican lawmakers (Gohmert being one of them) have resorted to "telephone town halls" to avoid public confrontations. Others have reportedly not met with voters at all. 

Fear of violence erupting may be understandable, but Giffords challenged her colleagues to do better by their constituents. "To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this," Giffords said. "Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls."

Cover image via Krista Kennell / Shutterstock

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