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Jerry McNerney, Dan Lungren share how they coped with Arizona shooting

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Posted: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 6:14 am, Tue Jan 11, 2011.

The two congressmen representing the Lodi and Galt areas had nothing but positive comments about critically wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. They also agree that politicians, the media and the public should tone down partisan political rhetoric to reduce the chance of violence among public officials.

Neither Reps. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, who represents the Lodi area, and Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, whose district includes Galt, requested extra police protection for their district offices or homes.

McNerney and Lungren shared their thoughts on the tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., with News-Sentinel staff writer Ross Farrow.

Q: Where were you when you heard the news about the shootings?

McNerney: I was in Pleasanton at the time and getting ready to attend a memorial service in Tracy for a fallen soldier later in the day.

Lungren: I was with my wife at our secondary residence in the D.C. area. I got a call from our staff director because we on the House Administration Committee have oversight over police and security at the Capitol.

Q: What was your initial reaction to the shootings? What are your thoughts now that you've been able to reflect on it?

Lungren: When I heard who the congresswoman was, I was not surprised she would be out and about meeting with her constituents. She is a very nice person.

McNerney: I had a cold feeling of shock and dread to learn of this violent attack on my friend and colleague, Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, her staff, and others. Gabby is a dear, unassuming friend and colleague.

Q: How closely have you worked with Congresswoman Giffords?

McNerney: We were elected to Congress the same year, and we served on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology together for two years. I've always enjoyed working with Gabby and share many of her priorities, such as improving care for veterans and increasing use of renewable energy.

Lungren: I'm not a close friend of hers. My contact with her has been more on an informal basis. She reminds me that she's a former Republican. She shares a lot of Republican positions.

Q: What do you think of comments made by the Pima County Sheriff and others about the need to tone down the "toxic" comments by elected officials, candidates, supporters, opponents, talk-show hosts and others?

Lungren: The comments by sheriff is unfortunate. In law enforcement, you stick to the facts, and there is no evidence that this individual was influenced by "toxic comments." I don't like overheated personal attacks. I think we always aspire to civil debate. I also want robust debate. Personal attacks — I deplore it. (Lungren noted that new House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called for more debate by the minority party than during any recent Democratic or Republican leadership, which should reduce toxicity.)

McNerney: There's no doubt that partisan rhetoric has become overheated these days, and there is a need to improve civility in our democracy. However, while we know that this tragic event was the work of one deranged individual, we don't yet have a full picture of his motivations. There are still many questions about the cause of the attack that remain to be answered as the investigation continues.

Q: How do you feel about your own safety in light of what happened Saturday?

McNerney: My first priority is to assess how we can provide a safe environment at events for the public. We will look for guidance on this subject from Capitol Police and local law enforcement.

Lungren: Members of Congress are somewhat exposed because of the nature of the job. I have always had uniformed, armed officers at my town hall meetings. Members of Congress must have good relationship with local law enforcement. I've always had good relationship with the (Sacramento County) Sheriff's department.

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