Loughner was apprehended by people in the crowd after the midmorning shooting at a Tucson supermarket. Witnesses described how he sprayed the area with bullets. Also among his victims was Arizona's chief federal judge, John M. Roll, 63, as well as Giffords aide Gabe Zimmerman, 30; Dorothy Morris, 76; Dorwin Stoddard, 76; and Phyllis Scheck, 79. Roll had just stopped by to see his friend Giffords after attending Mass.
Officials wouldn't discuss the motive for the attack, but witnesses said it appeared focused.
"I feel like he knew what he came there to do, and he done it," Joe Zamudio said Sunday morning on MSNBC.
Police believed Giffords, who had been sworn in for her third term with the rest of the 112th Congress last week, was the primary target of the attack. Giffords, 40, was considered a moderate Democrat who favored immigration reform and who had been the subject of at least two "unfortunate incidents" during the recent campaign for reelection. Giffords defeated "tea party" candidate Jesse Kelly by just 4,000 votes.
In a typically heated congressional campaign in the recent, hyper-partisan midterm elections, Kelly blamed Giffords for supporting President Obama's healthcare overhaul and for her more liberal views on immigration reform, a sore subject in Arizona, a border state whose efforts to halt illegal immigration have drawn condemnation from liberals and the federal government.
She was one of the lawmakers targeted for defeat by Sarah Palin, former GOP vice presidential candidate and former governor of Alaska, who may be considering a presidential run in 2012. In a campaign posting on Palin's Facebook page, Giffords' district and 19 other were depicted within cross hairs. Palin has expressed her condolences about the shootings.
"The phrase 'Don't retreat; reload,' putting cross hairs on congressional districts as targets. These sorts of things, I think, invite the kind of toxic rhetoric that can lead unstable people to believe this is an acceptable response," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), said on CNN's "State of the Union."
"And I think that we all have an obligation, both political parties -- and let me salute the senior senator from Arizona, John McCain, whose statement yesterday was clear and unequivocal that we are not accepting this kind of conduct as being anywhere near the mainstream," he said.
In a televised statement from a government building near his home of West Chester, Ohio, House Speaker John Boehner ordered flags at the Capitol be flown at half-staff in honor of the victims. He again condemned violence."An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve," Boehner said. "Such acts of violence have no place in our society."
Boehner said the House will postpone its scheduled business this week to deal with any needed actions in the wake of the shootings, including if additional security measures were needed.
The House had been scheduled to vote on a repeal of the Obama healthcare program Wednesday. The action was largely symbolic, fulfilling a GOP pledge in the election campaign. But any repeal was expected to fail in the Senate and would face a veto from Obama.
In his comments, Boehner also stressed that the shootings should not stop lawmakers from fulfilling their responsibilities.
"This inhuman act should not, and will not, deter us from our calling to represent our constituents and to fulfill our oaths of office," Boehner said. "No act, no matter how heinous, must be allowed to stop us from our duties."
Boehner's comments echoed those by Obama right after the attack.
Praising Giffords as an extraordinary public servant, the president also condemned the shooting.
"We do not yet have all the answers," Obama said Saturday. "What we do know is that such a senseless and terrible act of violence has no place in a free society."