Everybody, take a step back, before this really gets out of hand.
In an era of heated and hyper-partisan political rhetoric, five people — including a prominent congressman — were shot Wednesday on a baseball field just an outfielder’s throw from our nation’s Capitol. Fortunately, all of the victims have initially survived the shooting and are recovering in hospitals.
That the players included the third-ranking member of the House of Representatives, Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the most grievously wounded victim, no doubt saved many lives. Because of his high-ranking position, a Capitol Police detail was present; in the words of Sen. Rand Paul, “Had these two Capitol Police officers … not been there, it might have been a massacre.” The Capitol Police officers returned fire, killing the gunman, an Illinois man whose political expressions displayed antipathy toward the viewpoints of those on the field and President Trump.
The targets of Wednesday’s shooting were Republicans; the tragic incident recalled the 2011 shooting of Arizona Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived the attack but suffered a severe brain injury and eventually left Congress.
Targeted shootings in this decade know no partisanship, which was noted by lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
Members of both parties stopped what they were doing to offer condolences and prayers. Many hearings in Congress were canceled, and the White House limited its activities. President Trump issued a statement that properly praised the efforts of the Capitol Police — two officers were wounded in the attack — in preventing further carnage.
But as too often happens, partisans retreated to the bunkers and took aim with their own rhetorical fire. Both sides of the gun-control debate immediately resuscitated their familiar arguments. Also, mutual finger-pointing ascribed blame to each other for bombast that escalated into bullets.
Fact is, no one has a corner on righteousness in this fractious national debate. So step back, take a deep breath, agree to disagree, tone down the hateful rhetoric and then get moving on governing a country where we remain free to say what we think about our governance. It is messy, and arguably inefficient, but it is how this country works.
In an encouraging sign that the attack won’t immobilize our government, the baseball game — between Republican and Democratic representatives and staffers — went on as scheduled. The victims of Wednesday’s shootings were engaged in a most American pastime, baseball, on a most American day, Flag Day. Wednesday’s attack appears to be an attempted political assassination; we can’t afford to let an assault such as this one coerce our country into a new normalcy of violence or paralysis.