Congresswoman shot in Safeway massacre is taken off ventilator

THE US congresswoman shot in the Tucson massacre was breathing on her own last night after being taken off a ventilator.

Neurosurgeon Michael Lemole said he had left a breathing tube in Gabrielle Giffords to protect her airway but she was drawing breaths on her own, was alert, and responding to doctors.

Six people are still in hospital after the shooting on Saturday at a Tucson Safeway store where Ms Giffords was holding a meet and greet session. The attack killed six, including a nine-year-old girl, and injured 14 others.

US president Barack Obama, accompanied by his wife Michelle, is expected today to attend a memorial service in Tucson and visit victims' families in person. He has spoken already by phone.

He led the nation in a minute's silence to pay tribute to those killed on Monday.

Funeral arrangements are underway for those killed, with services being arranged for the end of this week.

Members of the Arizona state legislature are understood to be considering barring protesters from getting within 300 feet of services.

It follows reports that members of a controversial baptist church, that carries out protests at services of gay people and members of the military, was planning to picket at the funeral of Christina Taylor-Green, the nine-year-old granddaughter of former Philadelphia Phillies manager Dallas Green , who was among those gunned down on Saturday.

Tucson residents are planning a peaceful human barricade in response, in which people will wear "angels' wings" as they link arms to shield mourners from the protesters.