Senior Republican shot at baseball practice

Laying down the law: Scalise represents the First Congressional District of Louisiana. © Getty

A gunman has injured five people at a Republican baseball practice session, including top politician and gun rights supporter Steve Scalise. What chance that this might lead to reform?

A quiet Wednesday morning, an ordinary American scene. A few dozen Republican politicians on a baseball pitch in Alexandria, Virginia, practicing for a charity game against the Democrats. Suddenly, an all too familiar American tragedy.

Shortly after 7:00 am yesterday, a man identified by the media as James T. Hodgkinson opened fire with an assault rifle. At the time of writing, five people are reported injured. Among them was Steve Scalise, a leading Republican congressman. He was shot in the hip.

No one died apart from the attacker, who was shot by Scalise’s security officers (they were injured in turn). Scalise was said to be in “good spirits” as he entered hospital. President Trump described him as a “patriot.”

The shooting prompted condolences from people across the political spectrum. On hearing the news, the Democrat baseball team, practicing nearby, stopped playing and prayed. Activity in the House of Representatives was suspended, including the hearing of a bill to deregulate the sale of gun silencers.

The familiar response to mass shootings was not long in coming. Americans took to the internet to debate the merits of gun control. It was pointed out that Scalise is a fervent supporter of the Second Amendment: his website boasts an “A+” rating from the National Rifle Association, the group that lobbies for gun rights.

Advocates of gun control picked up on this irony and renewed their calls for regulation. “The fact that the security team could not prevent this tragedy is simply one more indication that we need fewer guns,” commented a user on The New York Times website.

In contrast, witnesses argued that the two armed guards saved lives. Representative Mo Brooks, who was at the scene, implied that more weapons could have helped matters. “It’s not easy to take when you see people around you being shot and you don’t have a weapon yourself,” he said.

Hundreds of mass shootings occur in the USA each year. So far in 2017, an average of 42 people have been killed by firearms every day. Yet gun reform remains elusive. Could this strike at the heart of the gun lobby be the turning point?

Open fire

Doubtful, say some. The Sandy Hook murder of 20 children in 2012 did not result in new federal laws: a few injured men are unlikely to sway public opinion. What Brooks said will probably be echoed by many: the solution to “bad guys with guns is more good guys with guns,” as Trump has said.

This is different, reply others. Congress’s utter shock in the wake of the shooting speaks volumes — as Speaker Paul Ryan said: “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” This incident will bring the danger of guns home to those who have the power to control them.

You Decide

  1. Is ownership of guns an essential freedom and a right? Or a potential danger which ought to be controlled by the authorities?
  2. Is it right to start a political debate so soon after a vicious attack?

Activities

  1. Watch Trump’s speech in Become An Expert. List two good and two bad things about the speech.
  2. Research the gun silencer bill mentioned in this article. Give a two-minute speech to the class, saying whether or not it should become law.

Some People Say...

“Guns don’t kill people — people kill people.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Scalise has served five terms representing his Louisiana district. He is an ambitious politician who has swiftly climbed the Republican Party’s ranks. Describing himself as a “strong conservative leader,” he is a vocal defender of free speech and critic of Obamacare. The New York Times described him as the Republican baseball team’s “best offensive player.” He is expected to make a full recovery.
What do we not know?
At the time of writing, the gunman’s background and motives are unclear. He is said to have volunteered for the Democratic campaign of Bernie Sanders, who strongly condemned the attack. His social media pages contain many anti-Republican posts. Before opening fire, he is believed to have asked a congressman whether the players were Republicans or Democrats.

Word Watch

Charity game
The game goes ahead today as scheduled. Leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi (the “House Minority Leader”) said: “We will use this occasion as one that brings us together and not separates us further.”
Steve Scalise
The “majority whip”, the third highest rank of any Republican in the House of Representatives; the House along with the Senate makes up the US Congress, the American law-making body. As whip Scalise’s job is to persuade members to vote along party lines, and note how they vote.
Second Amendment
This clause in the US Constitution, upheld by the Supreme Court in 2008, gives Americans the right “to keep and bear arms”.
A+
These ratings reflect lawmakers’ voting records on gun laws.
42 people
There have been 6,877 firearm-related deaths in the USA this year (excluding suicides), according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Sandy Hook
20-year-old Adam Lanza shot dead 20 children and 6 adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, one of the deadliest school shootings in US history.

Subjects

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