U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, TX-15, addressed faculty and staff of The University of Texas-Pan American, as well as other members of the community, Jan. 12 about the recent shootings in Tucson, Ariz. that killed six people and critically injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona congresswoman and colleague of Hinojosa, among several others.
Hinojosa told a packed room inside the University's International Trade and Technology building's International Room that he would be meeting with the U.S. Marshals, FBI, as well as state and local law enforcement agencies to determine what security measures can be taken to ensure that constituents and others who attend public events he holds for them will be safe. Likewise, federal law enforcement agencies are discussing ways to step up security for lawmakers, he said.
He also told those who attended the Wednesday morning press conference that more information regarding security measures would be known in about a month or so.
"I have a serious commitment to help the people I represent ... at the same time in our post 9/11 world increased security and inconveniences like airport screenings are now a way of life. We need to find a way to balance the need for security with our need to keep a responsive democracy," Hinojosa said.
The congressman also told the crowd about Giffords, who he calls a friend, and the six people who died from the incident.
Giffords, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, which comprises moderate Democratic members of Congress, serves with Hinojosa on the Congressional Border Caucus and just a few days before the shooting the two discussed whether legislation requesting more protection along the border should call for more Army Reservists or Border Patrol agents. Though they didn't always agree on every issue, Giffords was never confrontational during disputes and often voted with the rest of her Democratic peers on education issues, Hinojosa said.
Hinojosa said Giffords told her fellow lawmakers she was looking forward to returning to Arizona and meeting with constituents.
Ironically, Hinojosa added, Giffords has supported gun ownership rights allowed under the Second Amendment.
"To have someone come right up to her and try to assassinate her, you can see it impacted all members of Congress," Hinojosa said as he tried to contain his emotions during the press conference. "An attack on one is an attack on all of us."
Hinojosa said he and his wife learned of the shootings while watching TV that Saturday afternoon and described that day and those following the incident as a rollercoaster of emotions.
"I know there is a disagreement about whether the hatred and the disrespect that has entered not only political debates but all areas of life cause people to commit acts of violence. Whether it does or not I truly believe that we all need to return to more civil ways of expressing ourselves," Hinojosa said.
"As the new speaker John Boehner says we can disagree without being disagreeable. I may not agree with the new speaker on a lot of issues, but I do think he is right about this position he stated on Monday. People who disagree with us are not evil demons planning to destroy the world. They are people just like you and I, people with families with hopes and dreams, who love this country as much as we do. I think we can honor the memory of those we lost in Tucson by toning down our words and by restoring respect and civility," he said.
Hinojosa and UTPA President Robert S. Nelsen led the group in a moment of silence honoring the victims of the shootings.
Afterward, the congressman answered questions from those in attendance.
Nelsen said the University invited Hinojosa to come to campus and update the community on what is being done to ensure their safety and that of their elected leaders.
"This is the time to be civil, this is the time to come together, this is the time for UT Pan Am and the Valley to show the rest of the world how we do it right and how we are family and that we can be together," Nelsen said.