Connecticut Delegation Condemns Shooting Of GOP Colleague At Congressional Baseball Practice
The unsettling attack on Congressional Republicans on a baseball field in suburban Washington Wednesday sparked concerns that the inflamed rhetoric dominating politics today may have played a role in the shooting.
While lawmakers first expressed shock and horror that their colleagues were fired upon in broad daylight, they also lamented the sharp political divide in Washington and across the country.
"This constant agitation and the tone in which the vitriol takes place ... both sides are guilty," said Rep. John Larson. "I hope that everybody heeds the warning and acts responsibly. When you're constantly stoking those fires ... then unfortunately bad things can result as we saw this morning."
Social media postings by the shooter, a 66-year-old Illinois man, were largely critical of President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress. Law enforcement officials said it was too soon to know the gunman's motive, but Republican and Democratic leaders, as well as Trump, called for unity. Some Republicans in Congress directly attributed the attack to anti-GOP rhetoric.
At a bipartisan briefing on the shooting, Rep. Elizabeth Esty said lawmakers rose and spoke of threats of violence that they and their families had received.
"This should provoke a soul searching for Americans in a broader context of where we have come to that people would think that shooting someone ... would be an appropriate response to political disagreement," she said.
Public discourse has "disintegrated" over the past several years, said Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
"We've been going down this road for a long time," she said. "I think that one has to consider tone, one has to consider language. And it's just not for today or tomorrow or the day after in the wake of this shooting. ... We are tasked with being above what the fray is and being role models. .... We have to be very, very conscious" of that.
The shooting brought an abrupt break to the partisanship that has engulfed Congress since Trump was elected. The House canceled all votes for Wednesday and most other events were postponed or canceled.
"I am hopeful we can put aside politics and support all affected," Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.
Rep. Jim Himes said he was "horrified" by the shooting.
"On the eve of the Congressional Baseball game, one of the most popular bipartisan traditions in Washington, these attacks have shaken our tight-knit community on the Hill," he said. "We will band together and get through this."
Sen. Chris Murphy is a member of the Democratic team that will play the GOP Thursday night at Nationals Park in the annual Congressional Baseball Game. Democrats were holding their own early-morning practice at a separate location when the Republicans were attacked.
"There is no rational explanation for what happened this morning," said Murphy, who skipped Wednesday's practice and learned of the shooting while he was at home. "Anyone who shows up at a 7 a.m. baseball practice [with a gun] is clearly unhinged."
While the shooting is "horrific," Murphy said more than 90 people each day are killed by guns in America "and every single one of them" is tragic.
"No one incident should change anyone's mind about the right policy to pursue," he said. "I support tightening our nation's gun laws because the broad experience of gun violence in this country points toward stronger gun laws dramatically reducing the number of people who were shot."
Murphy noted that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, is the second of his colleagues to be shot since he was first elected to Congress in 2006. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat from Arizona, was shot and critically wounded during an assassination attempt in January 2011 while she was meeting with constituents outside of a supermarket. Since the attack, Giffords has become a vocal proponent of stricter gun control laws.
Larson said the shooting would have been worse if Scalise, who was shot in the hip and required surgery, hadn't been at the practice. The Louisiana Republican has an armed security detail due to his position in House leadership.
"One would hope that after an incident like today" there would be a willingness to debate gun control legislation, Larson said. He noted that while the Senate voted on gun control measures last year, the House has yet to have a vote.
At a criminal justice conference in Hartford Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the shooting "is a reason why we need ... saner gun laws in America. I'm thankful that no one's lost their life," he said.
Malloy said he believed the gun used in the shooting is banned for sale in Connecticut.
Wednesday's shooting took place the same day as a major fundraiser for Sandy Hook Promise, a grass-roots gun violence prevention group that was founded in the wake of the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown that left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.
The Newtown Action Alliance, another gun violence prevention group, said in addition to offering their thoughts and prayers lawmakers and Trump should pass a package of gun legislation including expanding background checks, banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and repealing a law that provides certain legal protections to gun manufacturers.
"No matter the motive of a gunman, without passing these sensible federal gun laws, each one of us and our family members are vulnerable to gun violence," Po Murray, the organization's chairman, wrote in an email to supporters.