Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona Democrat targeted in a Saturday shooting that killed six and injured 13 at an event for constituents, was holding a similar "Congress on Your Corner" gathering at a Safeway grocery store in 2009 when a man dropped a loaded gun onto the ground. Citing safety concerns, staffers called the police.
But Giffords, a centrist Democrat in a conservative-leaning desert district, later made light of the 2009 encounter with an armed man. "When you represent a district that includes the homes of the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, 'The Town Too Tough to Die'’ nothing's a surprise," Giffords told The Arizona Republic editorial board.
The same month Giffords encountered the gun-wielding man at the grocery store, police spotted a man carrying a rifle and a pistol outside a Phoenix event where President Obama was speaking. Asked why he was so heavily armed, the man told the Arizona Republic, "Because I can do it ... In Arizona, I still have some freedoms."
Arizona has some of the nation's most lenient gun laws. Over the summer, Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law allowing law-abiding residents to carry concealed weapons without a special permit. It's one of several pro-gun laws passed under Brewer, who in her first year in office also signed a bill prohibiting property owners from banning weapons in parking lots, as long as the weapons are kept in locked vehicles.
Authorities told Fox News that primary suspect Jared Lee Loughner used a semi-automatic handgun legally purchased in Tucson.
And though Giffords supported a ban on semi-automatic weapons in November 2000 and has received a low grades in the "D" range from both the National Rifle Association and lobbying group Gun Owners of America, the three-term congresswoman has been vocal about her support for gun owners' rights.
"As a long-time gun owner, I believe the right to keep and bear arms should not be dependent on the city in which you live," Giffords said in a September 2008 press release after the House passed a measure requiring Washington, D.C. to retool its gun laws. According to published reports, Giffords owned a Glock at the time. "The provisions of the U.S. Constitution apply to all Americans, regardless of geography."
Three months earlier, Giffords had joined a bipartisan group of 300 lawmakers in sending an amicus brief to the Supreme Court arguing for the gun owners' rights at issue in the case District of Columbia v. Heller.
"As a gun owner, I am a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. In February, I was proud to sign the Amicus Brief in District of Columbia v. Heller asking the Supreme Court to uphold the lower court ruling that overturned the long standing DC gun ban," Giffords said. "We have a long tradition of gun ownership in the United States. ... It is a tradition which every law-abiding citizen should be able to enjoy."
Giffords is in critical condition after undergoing emergency surgery.