Lawmakers call for civility after congressional baseball practice shooting

Sen. Sherrod Brown speaks to WSYX from Capitol Hill on June 14, 2017. (SBG)

Members of Congress are offering prayers and support after their colleagues came under fire at a practice for a charity baseball game on Wednesday morning.

At least four people were wounded in the shooting at the Republican baseball team’s practice in Alexandria, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. The suspect was also wounded and later died.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Steve Scalise, his family, for those others who were wounded,” said Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.V.

Two members of Scalise’s security detail from U.S. Capitol Police were injured before one of them shot the gunman.

“Had they not been there, I can’t imagine the potential death that could have occurred,” Jenkins said of the officers.

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Cal., also praised the efforts of the officers, noting that security was only present because of Scalise’s position in leadership.

“Thank god that Congressman Scalise as majority whip has a security detail… Who knows what might have happened if they were not there to take down the gunman,” he said.

The gunman has been identified as James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. Although law enforcement has not yet confirmed a motive, details of Hodgkinson’s apparent political views have emerged, including volunteer work for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Sanders has issued a statement calling the shooting a sickening and despicable act.

“Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our mostly deeply held American values,” he said.

Several lawmakers expressed concern about the heated rhetoric and lack of civility that have typified American politics in recent months.

“I just think people should step back and stop the name-calling back and forth,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

Although he emphasized he is not placing responsibility on anyone except the shooter, he did call for the president to set a more nonpartisan example for the country.

“I don’t blame this incident on any political figure…but I do think the president could set a more embracing, softer tone to try to bring people together,” he said.

Town halls in members’ home districts have been particularly tense at times this year, but Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., said he has no intention of ratcheting up security for a forum he is holding this weekend.

“If we over-militarize our own presence in our communities, it creates greater detachment between those who are serving and those that we are intended to serve,” he said.

Jenkins decried the dangerous “toxic environment” the country is living in.

“I don’t know what his motivation, what his hate was, but clearly he was there to kill,” he said.

Rep. James Langevin, D-R.I., acknowledged deep ideological divisions, but condemned any act of violence driven by those differences.

“Violence is never the answer,” he said.

Costa hopes the tragedy will spur some changes in the national political dialogue.

“It just all reminds us that we’ve got to lower the rhetoric and ensure that civility remains a part of our democratic debate and our process,” Costa said.

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