Yesterday’s shooting incident during baseball practice between Republicans and Democrats in Alexandria, Virginia sobered up a lot of people.
Most notable, Democratic Congressman Mike Doyle from Pennsylvania, and Republican Congressman Joe Barton from Texas, who together gave a lengthy press conference to discuss the morning’s incident.
Republican House Whip Steve Scalise and four others were shot during the episode in which the shooter, identified as James Hogkinson, opened fired with an assault style rifle on the ball field during practice. Initial reports said that 50-100 shots had been fired. Had it not been for the presence of capitol police officers — part of Representative Scalise’s security — the incident would have been much more tragic.
Barton and Doyle detailed the incident.
“When it happens,” Barton said, “and you don’t know that you’re gonna be shot at and you hear this bang, it’s a shock. But then you hear three or four bang, bang, bang, right in a row, then you know we were being shot at.”
Barton described how his 10-year old son witnessed the shooting.
“On the first base side, my [young son, Jack] was down in the batting cage with my oldest son, and I was by the first base dugout. I yelled at my oldest son, ‘Get Jack and get down.’ Then somebody told me to get down.
“So, then you just wonder, when is it going to stop,” Barton continued. “…you keep hearing these firecrackers going off. It had only been four or five minutes but it seemed like it was ten minutes before they finally got the shooter down. I could see Jack, I could see him under [a] car and I kept telling him, ‘stay under the car, stay under the car.’
“One of the security officers rushed the shooter with his pistol drawn,” Barton said, “and said, ‘drop the pistol,’ and when he didn’t do that, I think this was the officer who shot the attacker.”
“This country has always had huge amount tensions, politically,” Barton reflected. “Technology today makes it so much more personal and some of the TV attack ads make it easier for the general population [who] want to resort to personal attacks.”
In terms of the personal attacks members of each party have leveled at one another, Barton said, “I think a lot of members who came to the briefing this morning feel that it’s time to take a step back.”
Both Barton and Doyle said that it “shouldn’t take a tragedy to bring us together.”
“I’ve been around this place for a long time,” Rep. Doyle said, “and I’ve seen a lot of tragedy happen and I’ve seen us all say ‘It’s gonna change’ and it hasn’t. So, let me say, I hope so, because it needs to happen. “
Remembering past incidents, Doyle added, “When the children were shot at Sandy Hook, when that happens, you think about your own family, your spouse, your siblings. I think all of us are just repulsed when they happen. And we have disagreements on what the answer to that is, and there’s no easy answer to it. If there were an easy answer, it would be done already.
“Today feels just like these other incidents to me,” Doyle said. “I thank God no one died. Except the shooter. We’re just glad that everyone else is okay.”
The Pennsylvania Democrat extended an invitation to Barton and his Republican team to have dinner with his fellow teammates at the Democratic Campaign Committee.
“I can tell you,” Barton concluded, “Mike Doyle inviting Republicans to dinner has got to be a historic first step in bipartisanship and I’m going to order the most expensive steak on the menu… if you have steak on the menu!”
In the moment, the two lawmakers were just two baseball managers enjoying each other before announcing that the annual event – which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for The Boys and Girls Club, and The Fallen Officers Club – remains scheduled for tonight at seven o’clock.
Courtesy, Civility, Unity — that’s the take-away from a Republican and a Democrat. Will it lead to more communication and cooperation in Congress? I hope so.
As last reported, Congressman Scalise was out of surgery in critical condition and, according to hospital officials, will require more surgeries.