RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Richmond council members are shocked by the murder attempt of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and 18 other people Saturday. They are in the public eye, perhaps, more frequently then traveling representatives and say it's easier for the public to gain access to them. Richmond City Council President Kathy Graziano says she's in the public eye all the time.
"I believe public officials are maybe a little more vulnerable than other people but everyone is vulnerable from people who are not mentally balanced and unfortunately you can't protect yourself from that," she said.
As shocked as she is by the shooting in Arizona, Graziano says she can't think about the "what if's" every time she speaks in public, holds a meeting, or shakes the hands of the people. She says, local public figures are actually more exposed to risks than representatives in Congress.
"Particularly with people in local government, you don't have security and you are not to demean anybody," she said "I'm in the grocery store everyday going about my regular life where as a Congressman is not as vulnerable as public officials."
Graziano may not think about the risks every time she steps out in public, but Council Member Bruce Tyler shares with us some private thoughts he has right before he steps out.
"When I go into chambers and council meetings I look around to see who's in the crowd and one of the reasons I do that is because I'm thinking about 'what if'," he said. "What if something does happen, there are lots of people in that building that come in and out all the time and some folks that come down there are not really happy with the results."
Both Tyler and Graziano agree, personal security risks are part of the job.
"With local officials that there is very little privacy in your life in terms of being with the public," said Graziano.
We also caught up with former Democratic candidate, Krystal Ball, who recently spent time with Congresswoman Giffords. Ball says she knew Giffords and her husband as great contributors to society. Ball describes Giffords as respectable woman, a honorable representative, and a great friend.
"It's horrific," she said. "I had the blessing to know Congresswoman Giffords. This is unbelievable. We were at the same conference together over new years she was thrilled to serve the country. She's certainly a role model to me."
Several other local lawmakers have been weighing in on the tragic events in Arizona. In a statement, Congressman Eric Cantor said: "Along with our nation, this institution has suffered a horrible tragedy. We are saddened, mourning those who lost their lives, and stand together in hopeful prayer for the recovery of the victims and their families."
Congressman Bobby Scott called the Congresswoman a "tireless advocate" for her constituents, adding: "Our hearts and prayers go out to the Giffords."
And fifth district Congressman Robert Hurt echoed those sentiments calling the murder attempt a horrific act of violence, one that has absolutely no place in our society.