Representative Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Giffords (D-AZ 8th) has been critically injured after being shot in the head at point-blank range at an official public event in Tuscon, AZ. Giffords underwent surgery and is expected to survive. Six others, including U.S. District Court Judge John Roll and at least one aide to the Congresswoman, were killed in the attack. Another twelve were injured.

The shooter, identified as Jared Lee Loughner, is in custody. His social media postings include a number of vague anti-government rants that deride, among other things, the government’s “mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.” He identifies Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kamph and Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels’s Communist Manifesto as being among his favorite books, and there are indications that he suffers from mental illness. Police are now indicating that they are seeking a second suspect, but have been particularly vague about who it is or why they believe Loughner didn’t act alone.

Giffords was first elected in 2006 and has just begun her third term in the Congress after her narrow re-election in November over Republican ‘tea-party’ challenger Jesse Kelly. She is a member of the centrist ‘Blue Dog Coalition’ of Congressional Democrats, and is married to Mark E. Kelly, a NASA space shuttle astronaut.

Off on a Tangent offers our prayers for the victims who have died, as well as for those injured and the families, friends, and colleagues of all affected.