Lee’s Summit – I was shocked and saddened by the attempted assassination of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the shooting deaths of six others.  This attack was unconscionable.  It is a time for all of us to come together to grieve with the families and friends, and my prayers are with them as they weather this difficult time.
I have heard no credible evidence that this violence was related to any particular organization; it appears to be the work of an unstable individual.  However, since the attack, there has been a great deal of talk about the nature of public discussion.  When I served in the Missouri House of Representatives, I was part of and witness to many heated debates.  The nature of American politics – and it is also reflected in the media – is to debate and argue many sides of a question.  We hope that, as a result of the airing of different points of view, a path forward can be found. 
We must have dialogue.  However, we can take this opportunity to recognize that, just because we disagree, we need not be vicious enemies.  Without violating or regulating our basic right to free speech, people can still seek to avoid violence or allusions to violence as part of the rhetoric.  In our U.S. Constitution, it gives us the right to peaceably assemble, and peaceably it should be.
As public officials, we all live with an inherent risk of being a target for disturbed individuals.  However, my door is always open.  It is an important public service to make myself available to District 8 constituents.  My hope is that this horrific crime, which was committed during an open meeting between the representative and the public, does not stifle communication between an elected official and those who elected him or her to speak for them.  That communication is as crucial to the American process as is open debate.
I am currently planning a series of local town hall meetings in March.  I have resolved that these tragic events in Tucson will not discourage me from listening to the people of Eastern Jackson County.