After Shootings Come Unity, Resolve, and Talk of Tougher Security

Rep. Joe Barton, with Rep. Pat Meehan (left) arrives on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a security briefing after a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others. Rep. Joe Barton, with Rep. Pat Meehan (left) arrives on Capitol Hill Wednesday for a security briefing after a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, wounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and others. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The House is still reel­ing after the Wed­nes­day shoot­ing of a mem­ber of Con­gress, a staffer, a lob­by­ist, and two Cap­it­ol Po­lice of­ficers at an early-morn­ing base­ball prac­tice, but the pre­vail­ing sen­ti­ment is that the game must go on.

That rings true equally for the busi­ness of gov­ern­ing and the Con­gres­sion­al Base­ball Game, for which the Re­pub­lic­ans were prac­ti­cing when a gun­man opened fire and which will go on as sched­uled Thursday even­ing. After scrap­ping Wed­nes­day’s floor sched­ule, the House is ex­pec­ted to hold votes on Thursday and ad­journ for the bal­ance of the week.

“You’ll see in­creased se­cur­ity at the game, but it’s im­port­ant to let people know we’re go­ing to keep go­ing and you can’t let someone get you off what we’re sup­posed to be do­ing,” said Rep. Gregg Harp­er. “The game needs to go on. I think Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats alike agree we need to play the game. I think it’ll be very emo­tion­al.”

Des­pite the de­fi­ance and shows of unity, mem­bers are already talk­ing about ad­just­ing their be­ha­vi­or and se­cur­ity after Ma­jor­ity Whip Steve Scal­ise was shot. Harp­er, who as chair­man of the House Ad­min­is­tra­tion Com­mit­tee has over­sight of the Cap­it­ol Po­lice, said that he and his Sen­ate coun­ter­parts will ex­am­ine se­cur­ity pro­to­cols but that it is too early to tell wheth­er any changes will be made.

“We’re al­ways con­cerned about mem­bers’ se­cur­ity, so that’ll be an on­go­ing as­sess­ment as we go on. It’s still too early to come up with per­haps a policy change or something of that nature,” he said.

Many mem­bers, some who play on the base­ball team, poin­ted out that the only reas­on po­lice of­ficers were present and able to counter the at­tack­er was be­cause Scal­ise was in at­tend­ance and the two of­ficers were mem­bers of his se­cur­ity de­tail. If not for his pres­ence, mem­bers would have been un­guarded, as they of­ten are when they are off the heav­ily for­ti­fied Cap­it­ol com­plex.

“In a sense Steve Scal­ise took a bul­let for many of his col­leagues,” Rep. Trent Franks said. “If he hadn’t have been there, he wouldn’t have been hit. But if he hadn’t have been there, many oth­ers would have been.”

As a res­ult, some mem­bers are be­gin­ning to ques­tion wheth­er tight­er se­cur­ity should be put in place for lar­ger groups of mem­bers, even if there are no mem­bers of lead­er­ship present.

“At what point do you have a con­greg­a­tion of mem­bers—we’re not any more spe­cial than any­body else but we are tar­gets—do you have a se­cur­ity de­tail with you?” asked Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who wit­nessed the shoot­ing.

With the shoot­ing still fresh in mem­bers’ minds, the Cap­it­ol Hill com­munity is badly shaken. It was only a few years ago that then-Rep. Gab­ri­elle Gif­fords was shot at a con­stitu­ent event in Ari­zona. Re­pub­lic­an mem­bers noted that threats against them and their fam­il­ies seem to be on the rise since the in­aug­ur­a­tion of Pres­id­ent Trump. Some mem­bers called for tamp­ing down polit­ic­al rhet­or­ic.

Rep. Martha Mc­Sally, who now holds the dis­trict Gif­fords rep­res­en­ted, said an in­di­vidu­al who made threats against her will be ar­raigned later this week and noted that the polit­ic­al cli­mate seems to be stok­ing these threats.

“I don’t want to politi­cize this, but I do think we need to take a hard look in­side,” Mc­Sally said. “I think it’s an im­port­ant time to see this as a wake-up call. We saw this in my com­munity in 2011. We talked it about after the death threats against my­self, and I said then, a month ago, I feel like that in this en­vir­on­ment it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore some act of vi­ol­ence is taken.”

Rep. Jeff Duncan said that he be­lieves the gun­man tar­geted the mem­bers be­cause they are Re­pub­lic­an. Duncan said he was leav­ing the base­ball prac­tice early when a man asked wheth­er it was Demo­crats or Re­pub­lic­ans who were prac­ti­cing. He said he only real­ized later that the man was the gun­man who opened fire after the in­ter­ac­tion.

“He asked me if it was a Re­pub­lic­an or Demo­crat­ic team prac­ti­cing and I told him it was a Re­pub­lic­an team. And he pro­ceeded to shoot Re­pub­lic­ans,” Duncan said. “I’m go­ing to take it as he was tar­get­ing Re­pub­lic­ans.”

Rep. Ron De­S­antis, who was with Duncan dur­ing that in­ter­ac­tion with the gun­man, said that he, on the oth­er hand, wants to with­hold judg­ment un­til the facts sur­face.

“I think there’s evid­ence that this par­tic­u­lar in­di­vidu­al may have ac­ted be­cause of a polit­ic­al motive. I still think you have to prove that some­how the cul­ture promp­ted him to do that. I don’t know. Maybe he just did it on his own. I don’t want to get car­ried away with that,” De­S­antis said.

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