A friendly game of baseball might seem like one of the few things that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. It’s a way to get out of the chambers of Congress, have a little fun and raise money for charity. However, a liberal who has volunteered for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign turned what should have been a day of lighthearted sport into a nightmare by attacking the Republicans’ baseball practice, wounding four people before being fatally wounded himself.
— CNN (@CNN) June 15, 2017
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-AZ) was among those wounded, having been shot in the hip. At last update, surgery had been successful although he was still listed as being in critical condition.
BREAKING: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise appears to have been shot in Alexandria, VA, GOP Rep. Mo Brooks says https://t.co/IVQc8RHXL8
— CNN (@CNN) June 14, 2017
Bernie Sanders was quick to own up to the shooter’s previous involvement in his campaign as a volunteer and equally quick to condemn the attack. While addressing the Senate, he said, “I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act, and let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms.”
The shooter is described as a 66-year-old man who originally hails from Illinois. He had worked as an independent contractor and home inspector, but has apparently been living out of a duffel bag and showering at the YMCA since moving to Virginia.
While the FBI refused to comment on a possible motive for the shooting, the prevailing public theory is that the incident was politically motivated. The gunman had operated a Facebook page that was strongly anti-Trump and anti-GOP, as well as writing numerous opinion letters to local newspapers. A typical comment on his Facebook page was, “There’s a new version of what GOP stands for. It’s not the Grand Old Party anymore. It’s the Greedy One Percenters.”
The shooting incident of Wednesday morning was not the first violent incident he had been involved with or his first run-in with the law. He had previously been arrested on charges of domestic battery and discharge of a firearm in April 2006 after punching a woman, striking her boyfriend over the head with a firearm, and then opening fire.
Situation Could Have Been Worse
The shooting of Wednesday morning could have been much worse if armed members of the Capitol Police had not been present. The gunman had fired as many as 50 rounds as members of Congress took cover and the Capitol Police officers fired back. Members of Congress were quick to praise their actions.
Bernie Sanders said of their actions, “I know I speak for the entire country in saying that my hopes and prayers are that Representative Scalise, congressional staff and the Capitol police officers who were wounded make a quick and full recovery. I also want to thank the Capitol Police for their heroic actions to prevent further harm.”
Respect to Bernie Sanders for this immediate response. pic.twitter.com/qvB0vh6hJ6
— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) June 14, 2017
Democrats in Congress have been eerily quiet on the topic of gun control in the aftermath of this shooting. They know that the entire reason that the gunman was the only fatality was that there were Capitol Police officers with firearms present who did the important job of protecting their colleagues in Congress.
Despite the incident, members of Congress plan to go ahead with the baseball game as originally scheduled for Thursday. This is the right thing to do because it tells would-be mass shooters and attackers of any stripe that Americans will not be intimidated by gun violence and are capable of going about their business as usual in the face of a violent attack.