By Mike Lillis - 01/13/11 09:43 PM EST
Saturday's tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) at a meet-and-greet with constituents has done little to discourage other members from staging similar events.
Instead, a number of lawmakers in both chambers are pushing ahead defiantly with public gatherings designed to demonstrate that the attempted assassination of a colleague will be no deterrent from public interaction with voters.
"It's important to make a very bold statement that we will affirm our dedication to having a robust, open-access and free democracy by not letting forces of fear and hatred, desperation and madness deter us from this very important and noble enterprise."
Ellison this week scheduled a meet-and-greet with constituents for Friday. "Let's do democracy," Ellison tweeted on Tuesday. " 'Congress on the Corner' dedicated to Cong. Gabby Giffords. Be there!"
Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) has planned a similar event — aimed at sending a similar message.
"First, I was heartsick at the news. Then I was angry. And now I'm resolved," Berkley said Wednesday on the chamber floor. "I am going to do my own 'Congress on the Corner' in honor of Gabby this coming Friday because nobody, no lone gunman, nobody can stop the democratic process and stop us from doing our job of interacting with our constituents."
In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan is hosting a similar event — dubbed "Conversations with Kay" — in the town of Marion on Saturday.
The list goes on.
Giffords, recently elected to her third term after a tough contest against a Tea Party candidate, remains in critical condition after Saturday's shooting, which killed six and wounded 14. The episode marked the first assassination attempt on a sitting member of Congress since 1978.
In the wake of the tragedy, some lawmakers have called for greater protections for members of Congress and other high-profile government officials. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), for instance, is calling for an increase in congressional office budgets to bolster security. Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) wants a Plexiglas shield erected around the House gallery. And Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) is pushing legislation prohibiting people from carrying firearms within 1,000 feet of lawmakers.
Ellison is among the members warning that too much security could lead to a dangerous isolation from constituents.
"[W]e must be vigilant on security matters," the Minnesota Democrat tweeted Thursday, "but I am concerned that too much security may curtail community access."
Some of the nation's governors have jumped into the debate as well. New Jersey's Chris Christie (R) indicated this week that lawmakers have an obligation to continue their interactions with voters.
"There are some who would say, 'Don't come out and do this anymore,' that it's it too dangerous," Christie said Thursday at his first townhall meeting of the year, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.
"We cannot play to the lowest common denominator, and we cannot play to fear. … The biggest risk you run as an elected official, especially as a governor, is to become isolated."