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NC delegation knows risks, rewards of public appearances

NC Rep. G.K. Butterfield said security is always a concern at large, public events, but Congressmen need to 'go out and meet with people and hear what's on their minds.'

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Congressional leaders in North Carolina expressed sadness and shock at the shooting rampage in Arizona that critically injured a congresswoman and killed at least five others.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head Saturday outside a grocery store where she was talking to constituents. A federal judge and a 9-year-old girl were among those killed.

Jared Loughner, 22, was arrested shortly after the attack and told police he acted alone.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a Democrat serving North Carolina's first district, couldn't believe the news he heard on television at a restaurant in Wilson Saturday. He was at a committee meeting with Giffords in Washington just yesterday.

"Gabby was only doing her job, and for her to have to suffer this type of tragedy doing her job is absolutely unacceptable," Butterfield said.

Rep. David Price, a Democrat serving the state's fourth district, said he considers Giffords a friend and called the shooting an "enormous tragedy."

"She was doing what members of Congress are supposed to do," Price said. "(It's) absolutely shocking and appalling.

Butterfield recalled a time his life was in danger at a campaign stop last year.

"I went into one of my counties and the police called me in advance to let me know that there was an armed individual at the venue," he said.

With 435 House members and 100 senators risking this type of attack every day, Butterfield said security procedures need to be re-assessed. But he was emphatic that tragic events like the Arizona shooting cannot stop elected leaders from meeting with constituents.

"It's part of our job description to go out and meet with people and hear what's on their minds and to share with them what's happening in Washington," Butterfield said. "We do that often and we're going to continue to do it."

Bob Etheridge, former long-time congressman for NC's second district, said he attended events like the meet-and-greet where Giffords was shot nearly every weekend.

"You always know there's that possibility," Etheridge said.

Sen. Richard Burr said he and his wife, Brooke, were shocked and saddened by the "senseless shooting."

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the victims and families affected by this tragic event," Burr said.

Sen. Kay Hagan said: "Today's shooting in Arizona is an absolute tragedy. My thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her family and staff, and the families of those injured and killed."

Rep. Renee Ellmers, Rep. Larry Kissell and Rep. Brad Miller were among the state's leaders who issued statements condemning the attack and wishing Giffords a full recovery.

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Beau Minnick, Reporter
Geof Levine, Photographer
Bridget Whelan, Web Editor

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