Ever since the group going by the name “Indivisible” issued a “how-to guide” for disrupting congressional town halls, representatives have tried to navigate the choppy waters created by angry constituents.
When it comes to “fight or flight,” some Republican lawmakers have opted for “flight” and decided the best way to stay safe is to stay away.
In a letter on Tuesday, Representative Loui Gohmert (R-TX), explained why he would not be hosting a town hall. He said:
“Unfortunately, at this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety.”
While the threats are “nothing new” to the former felony judge, he passed the blame to the House Sergeant at Arms and pointed to one of his colleague’s fate as the reason behind his decision. The letter said:
“The House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed — just as happened there.”
In 2011, Giffords was shot in the head during a constituent meeting held in the parking lot of a Tucson, Arizona, Safeway. Giffords was initially in critical condition but pulled through.
The shooting affected Giffords’ speech permanently, and the right side of her body is mostly paralyzed, according to the Associated Press.
Since her near-death experience, former congresswoman Gabby Giffords has hiked the Grand Canyon, gone skydiving, and has hosted over 50 public events nationwide to promote solutions to gun violence.
Now, she has a message for her fellow lawmakers. In a statement, Giffords described her dedication to the people she served:
“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.”
She called constituent meetings and town halls the “hallmark” of her tenure, and credited time with the people she represented as how she was able to serve southern Arizona. Her statement said:
“I believed that listening to my constituents was the most basic and core tenant of the job I was hired to do.”
As someone who has experienced first hand how “violent” open forums can be, she had strong words for any public servant who’s hiding behind fear. She addressed politicians directly:
“To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls.”
Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly echoed her sentiments and told CNN that if Republicans don’t want to hold town halls, that’s their choice, but they shouldn’t “hide behind” his wife.