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The federal government is looking at new ways to protect elected officials after Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona was critically injured when a gunman opened fire at a public event Giffords was hosting. Six people died and many others were injured. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore spoke with newly-elected Congressman Billy Long about the tragedy. Long began by saying he expects some changes are in store for him and other members of Congress regarding security.
Long: “The Capitol Police are giving us briefings, and I have every faith in the world in the Capitol Police. And they work not only in Washington, but also with our local and state [and] county authorities. And so I’ve got every confidence that we’ll, you know, do everything we can to remain safe and also remain accessible to the public. Because that’s what being in Congress is all about. It kind of comes with the territory as far as [taking] some chances you’d probably rather not take, but you’ve got to be accessible to the people and keep doing the work of the people. That’s what I was sworn in to do—to uphold the Constitution—last Wednesday, and that’s what I plan to do.”
Moore: “What talk has this generated in Congress about those potential new security guidelines you mentioned?”
Long: “Oh, right now that’s about it. There’s just a lot of talk going on, and I try to blank most of it out. We were down in Williamsburg for three days. The Congressional Research Service has a program for freshmen to kind of get you up to speed on everything. So I was with, probably, 70 freshmen and spouses and children this weekend when we heard the tragic news. And so, you know, as a group, it of course, sickened and saddened all of us. And everyone, I think, had a little bit of a different reaction. But the biggest thing I came away with was that, you know, we’re not going to let one mentally deranged individual control, you know, what has been going on for over 200 years in this country.”
Moore: “And lastly, Congressman Long, we don’t yet know, of course, why the suspect in this shooting allegedly did what he did, but there have been some documents found that talked about political rhetoric and [showed] that he was a bit of an extremist in some ways. And that has kind of shone light on the discussion going on between different sides in this country. Do you think that the heightened political rhetoric in this country has gotten out of hand in any way?”
Long: “Well, I think it’s a tragedy that people are, you know, even having that discussion going on right now when we have six dead, several injured, our colleague, Congresswoman Giffords, is fighting for her life as we speak, and we hope and pray that she’ll be back to work with us. There’s a, you know, a nine-year-old’s parents who are getting ready to bury her. And a federal judge, Johnny Roll, who everyone thought the world of out in Tuscon. And no one’s even thinking about the deceased, or the ones that are laying injured in the hospital. So to me, all this talk about whose fault it is and what is rhetoric getting to, you know, to me, it’s a lot of window-dressing for personal gain. And that’s not the time for personal gain on the left or the right.”
Moore: “Well, and I would agree with you, Congressman, that the focus at this point should certainly be on the injured and those who lost their lives. And I know that, at least our network has had extensive and in-depth features on them and their legacies. Don’t you think, though, that it’s also important to look at the various factors that may have caused this?”
Long: “Well, I think we need to go to the mental health officials there. The mental illness is what needs to be looked at in this country, because the young man was obviously deranged. I mean, you know there’s always an insanity defense. Well, it doesn’t take a Ph.D. from MIT to figure out someone who would do anything even close to this horrific, you know, is mentally insane, is deranged. So, I mean, who knows why someone, you know, is that way.
"So this talk of, you know, who caused it, or…and now, they’re all trying to out-clip each other, to out-sound byte each other, going back [and forth] saying, ‘Well you said this seven years ago about Republicans,’ [and] ‘Well, you said this seven months ago about Democrats.’ I mean, to me, it’s repulsive that they’re even having that discussion.”
Moore: “Congressman Billy Long, thank you very much. And again, congratulations on having just taken the oath of office there in Congress.”
Long: “Thank you, Jennifer. I hope the next time you have me on we can have Congresswoman Giffords alongside.”
Moore: “That would be wonderful indeed. Here’s to a great Congress.”
Long: “Thank you.”
Again, that was Representative Billy Long, who represent's Missouri's 7th Congressional district. He was speaking to KSMU’s Jennifer Moore about last weekend’s Arizona tragedy that resulted in six people dying, as well as a Congresswoman and several others facing life-threatening injuries.