U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, was first elected to Arizona's 8th Congressional District seat in 2006 and took office in January 2007. Giffords was re-elected in 2008 and 2010 to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The 8th Congressional District covers 9,000 square miles in the southeast part of Arizona, including a 114 mile border with Mexico.
Giffords supported the health care reform bill of 2010, called The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a vote that drew criticism from her some of her constituents. Giffords was reportedly harassed because of her support for the measure, and her office had been vandalized.
On Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011, Giffords was shot in the head while meeting with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson. After emergency surgery, doctors said they were hopeful for Giffords' recovery.
In a nationally televised statement, President Barack Obama called the shooting a "senseless and terrible act of violence."
Education and Personal Life of Gabrielle Giffords
Giffords also holds a master's degree in regional planning from Cornell University.
Giffords is married to Captain Mark Kelly, a Navy Pilot and NASA astronaut. According to her official House of Representatives biography, Giffords is the only U.S. representative with an active duty military spouse.
The couple lives in Tucson.
Political Career of Gabrielle Giffords
Before being elected to Congress in 2006, Giffords served in Arizona's statehouse. She was elected to and served in the state House of Representatives, from 2001 until 2003. Giffords served in Arizona's state Senate from 2003 until 2005.
Giffords only narrowly won re-election in the 2010 midterm elections, as Republicans were swept into power in the House.
Giffords portrayed herself as a centrist, or moderate, politician. In the U.S. House of Representatives, she championed solar energy and environmental causes, immigration reform and the needs of military families and veterans.
Giffords, a so-called blue-dog of conservative Democrat, was also said to be a strong supporter of fiscal responsibility, bipartisanship and government accountability.
Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
Giffords was meeting with constituents outside a Safeway grocery store in Tucson, Ariz., the morning of Jan. 8 when a gunman identified as 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner allegedly opened fire, wounding the congresswoman and at least 16 others.
Authorities said Giffords was the intended target of the attack.
Killed in the mass shooting were John M. Roll, the chief judge for the United States District Court for Arizona, a 9-year-old girl and at least four others, including an aide to Giffords.
Neurosurgeons at University Medical Center in Tucson performed emergency surgery on Giffords and said they were optimistic about her recovery.
Reaction to Shooting of Gabrielle Giffords
U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said in a statement after the shooting:
"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.
"Whoever did this, whatever their reason, they are a disgrace to Arizona, this country and the human race."
Obama, hours after the shooting, released a statement condemning the attack. It read:
"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."
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican of Ohio, said:
"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."