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A top House Republican is among the five people wounded after a gunman opened fire on a Congressional baseball practice in Virginia Wednesday morning, leaving two people in critical condition.
Majority Whip Steve Scalise, 51, of Louisiana, and Zachary Barth, a legislative correspondent to Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), were among those transported to area hospitals from the Alexandria field, authorities said.
Matt Mika, a lobbyist for Tyson Chicken, and Capitol Police Officers Krystal Griner and David Bailey were also hospitalized following the shooting. Mika and Scalise were reported to be in critical condition.
An FBI press release Wednesday afternoon identified the shooter as James Hodgkinson, 66. Griner and Bailey reportedly exchanged gunfire with Hodgkinson, who was wounded and later died of his injuries.
Mika’s family released a statement Wednesday confirming that he “was shot multiple times, is in critical condition, and is currently in surgery.”
Tyson Foods also released a statement on Mika. “Matt has worked for Tyson Foods for more than six years and we’re deeply concerned about him and his family,” it said in part.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) lauded Griner and Bailey as “heroes” during a statement on the floor that afternoon.
“I spoke with Special Agent Bailey and Special Agent Griner earlier this morning. One was being treated and one was about to go into surgery,” Ryan said. “I expressed our profound gratitude to them. It is clear to me that based on various eyewitness accounts that without these two heroes, Agent Bailey and Agent Griner, many lives would have been lost.”
Bailey has been a Capitol Police officer for nine years. He also spent three years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a LinkedIn profile under his name.
The two officers are in good condition and are expected to make a full recovery, Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa said at a press conference.
Barth has been hospitalized in stable condition and is “doing well,” according to Williams.
“He is receiving medical attention but is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery,” the Texas congressman tweeted. “We ask that you please respect the privacy of him and his family during this difficult time.”
Communication specialist Leslie Hagar Small identified Barth as an intern for the 2016 presidential campaign of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R).
“Zack Barth was one of our best Jeb interns on the campaign,” she tweeted. “He would stay and work until 8, 9, 10 pm because he loved the work and the Gov.”
Bush also tweeted that his “prayers are with Zach and everyone hurt in this morning’s shooting.”
Scalise was at second base when he was shot in the hip, according to Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who was at the scene. Scalise was able to drag himself away. Brooks later described using his belt as a tourniquet on a wounded staffer.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who was also at the scene, credited Capitol Police for their swift response.
“Absolutely no one would have survived without Capitol Hill Police,” he told CNN. “It would have been a massacre without them.”
Tragically, America has been rocked once again by gun violence from coast to coast. From a shooting near UPS center in San Francisco to a shooting near our nation’s Capitol – where it appears our nation’s leaders were targeted.
Details are still unfolding, but so far we know that during a congressional baseball practice at least one member of Congress was shot, alongside congressional staffers and police officers. Other members of Congress and their family members were present.
The humanity of the response to this shooting has been overwhelming: lawmakers crying on television while giving thanks to the police who responded so quickly and saved so many lives, an image of the Democrats’ baseball team gathering to pray for their colleagues.
But what impacted me so viscerally was a photo of Representative Joe Barton and his sons boarding a train in Alexandria after the shooting. According to witnesses, Rep. Barton’s 10-year-old son hid under a bench in the dugout as shots were fired.
As a mother, I recognized the fear and concern Rep. Barton had for his son and how as parents, we hold our children’s safety paramount to anything else on earth.
The trauma of this shooting has played out in far too many American communities every single day. Ninety-three Americans are shot and killed daily, and hundreds more are injured by gunfire.
Too many Americans have experienced what it’s like to be shot or have a loved one killed by gun violence.
There will be all kinds of speculation today. Pundits will point fingers and place blame. And we’ll all hug our loved ones a little tighter.
The bottom line is this: Americans should be able to practice baseball, dance in a nightclub, and attend religious services without the threat of gun violence.
No other developed nation suffers from the same rates of gun violence. In fact, America’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average other peer nations.
We deserve better. We must come together to make it better. So much of the gun violence in America is not only senseless, but preventable. There are solutions.
Rep. Rodney Davis said after the shooting, “I never thought I’d play a baseball game for charity, go to practice… and have to dodge bullets.”
This is sadly the current reality in America. The only way to change that reality is to face it together.
Shannon Watts is the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Members of Congress will hold their annual charity baseball game on Thursday night, just one day after a man opened fire on Republican lawmakers as they practiced for the event.
In a briefing to all members, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced that the game would be neither canceled nor postponed. Speaking to reporters after his announcement, Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said lawmakers received the news with a standing ovation.
“I haven’t seen a moment like that since I’ve been here,” McSally said.
The baseball game is a tradition for lawmakers, taking place at the Washington Nationals’ stadium in Washington, D.C., to raise money for various D.C.-area charities.
On Wednesday morning, as the Republican squad prepared for the game, a man opened fire, injuring Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), at least one congressional aide, a lobbyist practicing with the lawmakers and police officers.
Virtually all events on Capitol Hill were subsequently canceled as lawmakers gathered for a debriefing.
McSally hails from the same district as former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot by a gunman in 2011. She said that Republicans and Democrats opened the meeting by holding hands and praying together.
The Congressional Women’s Softball Game, another annual tradition that pits members of Congress against reporters, is also expected to go on as planned next week. Organizing committee member Rachel Palermo told HuffPost that their “thoughts and prayers are with the Congressional Baseball team and staff.” She added that members of the committee will work with police, as they do every year, to ensure the game is safe.
“This morning’s events were unacceptable,” Palermo said in an email. “We will continue to work with U.S. Capitol Police and D.C. Metropolitan Police to ensure the safety of everyone involved with the game.”
This story has been updated with a comment from Rachel Palermo.
Elise Foley contributed reporting.
Just over half a decade ago, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) and a group of constituents she was meeting near a Tucson Safeway in Arizona. He killed six people and injured 13 more.
On Wednesday morning, a man police have identified as James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on Republican lawmakers practicing for the annual congressional charity baseball game. And people are making the same sort of unsourced claims others made about Loughner. “I do know that America is divided,” Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Wednesday morning. “Violence is appearing in the streets. And it’s coming from the left.”
Here’s another example (there are plenty more on Twitter):
The alleged gunman may very well turn out to have had a political motivation. Two Republican congressman have said that a man they say matched his description asked them before the shooting whether Republicans or Democrats were practicing on the field. But we don’t know for sure enough yet.
In these moments, like many others in journalism, it really helps to pump the brakes. Often, the shooter’s motivations are far from clear. Take Loughner. At Mother Jones, the liberal political magazine where I worked in 2011, we were more careful. Instead of jumping to conclusions, we reported out the story ― and found that Loughner’s politics were unclear at best. The Monday after the shooting, we published an exclusive interview with Bryce Tierney, a close friend of Loughner who may have been the last person to exchange messages with him before the shooting.
Loughner, Tierney said, had become obsessed with “lucid dreaming.” This is the idea that conscious dreams are an alternative reality that a person can “inhabit and control” and became “more interested in this world than our reality.” Loughner’s grudge against Giffords, Tierney said, originated not in any policy dispute but rather in her failure to correctly answer a question he claimed to have posed to her at a town hall: “What is government if words have no meaning?”
“It wasn’t like he was in a certain party or went to rallies … It’s not like he’d go on political rants,” Tierney added.
It was the first in a series of stories that changed the narrative about the Giffords shooting. “What the cacophony of facts do suggest is that Mr. Loughner is struggling with a profound mental illness (most likely paranoid schizophrenia, many psychiatrists say),” The New York Times would report a week after Mother Jones published the Tierney interview. Loughner was later formally diagnosed with exactly that condition. He wasn’t a political activist of any stripe. He was just another mentally disturbed person with a gun.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) announced later on Wednesday that Thursday’s baseball game is still on.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
CLARIFICATION: This article initially characterized the practice as a “men’s” baseball practice. While this year’s Republican side does happen to consist entirely of men, the teams are in principle open to all members of Congress.
The U.S. Navy on Saturday commissioned a warship named for former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), making it the third Navy ship ever to be named after a living woman.
Giffords resigned her House seat in 2012 after surviving an assassination attempt at a grocery story in Tucson, Arizona. Then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus contacted Giffords that day to tell her that a warship would be named in her honor. The 418-foot littoral combat ship was built in Mobile, Alabama, and christened by Dr. Jill Biden in 2015.
Democratic heavyweights, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Vice President Joe Biden and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended the commissioning. Clinton, Pelosi and Biden honored the former representative for her service in the House, her heroism following the assassination attempt and her dedicated activism since then.
“Indeed throughout the world, and throughout America, there isn’t a name more universally loved, more admired, more respected than the name of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords,” Pelosi said.
The top Democrat commended Giffords for her dedication to active service members and veterans through her work on the House Armed Services Committee. Giffords’ husband, Captain Mark Kelly, was on active duty at the time of her service in the House. He retired from the Navy and NASA shortly after the shooting incident.
“The patriotism and the heroism of Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly embody the highest ideals of our nation,” Pelosi said.
Clinton heralded Giffords as “a truly great American,” saying the former representative came out of the assassination attempt “with grace and faith that is almost hard to imagine.”
“Instead of saying what might be expected and asking the question, ‘why me?’ she said, how can she make the most out of the life, the miracle, that she represented,” Clinton said. “And time and time again she has stood up ready to keep moving forward, to persevere with her trademark humor, kindness and relentless optimism.”
“It’s designed to be agile, quick to adapt, able to swiftly maneuver in the roughest of waters,” Clinton said of the ship. “Every moment of every day that the sailors who man this ship are given the great privilege of defending our country, they only have to look toward this ship’s namesake.”
Giffords called the commissioning “an incredible honor,” and thanked members of the military for their service.
“The U.S.S. Gabrielle Giffords is strong and tough, just like her crew,” she said. “I thought of you in my darkest days. We ask so much of you. Despite danger, you say yes. You make me proud, you make America proud. I will never forget this day or the crew of the U.S.S. Gabrielle Giffords.”
Her remarks were met with rousing applause.
Even after deadly attacks in Newtown and Orlando, Congress still hasn’t passed stricter gun control laws. In honor of National Gun Violence Awareness Day, actress Julianne Moore explained why she’s still invested in the fight for gun safety.
A rising high school senior is being commended for laying down his life to protect his younger cousin during a mass shooting in southwest Mississippi that killed eight people, including a sheriff’s deputy, on Saturday night.
Jordan Blackwell, 18, was at his Brookhaven home with his cousins Caleb Edwards, 15, Austin Edwards, 11, and a number of other young people, when authorities say Willie Godbolt, 35, began shooting his way inside inside amid a deadly domestic dispute.
“Where’s your mama and daddy?” Caleb recalled Godbolt asking Blackwell, whose mother was friends with Godbolt’s estranged wife, according to the Clarion-Ledger.
After Blackwell answered that they were in Bogue Chitto, a neighboring town about 69 miles south of Jackson, Godbolt started shooting again, Caleb said. The gunfire killed Austin, pictured below on the left.
Blackwell, pictured above on the right, played football at school and had started receiving offer letters from universities. His father, Shon Blackwell, said the teen blocked the path of a bullet that was heading toward Caleb. That selfless act cost him his life.
“I know we always say what we will do in a situation like that. He did it,” the elder Blackwell told the Daily Leader of his son. “He’s my young hero.”
Caleb also reflected on the incredible act, telling The Associated Press on Monday: “He loved me enough to take some bullets for me.”
Godbolt’s stop at the Brookhaven home was the second of three he would make that night, authorities said.
Earlier in the evening, police say he fatally shot his mother-in-law, Barbara Mitchell, 55; her daughter, Toccarra May, 35; and Mitchell’s sister, Brenda May, 53. Godbolt’s wife was able to escape with their two children.
Afterward, Godbolt allegedly went on to kill his wife’s sister, Shelia Burage, 46, and her husband, Ferral Burage, 45.
He also allegedly shot and killed responding Lincoln County Sheriff’s Deputy William Durr, 36, a two-year sheriff’s department veteran and former Brookhaven police officer. Durr leaves behind an 11-year-old son and a wife who described him to the AP as “a good Christian man.”
“He was a youth minister and a pastor before going into law enforcement,” said Durr’s wife, Debbie Durr. During his off-duty hours, Durr visited schools and churches where he performed with puppets for children, the principal of Brookhaven Academy told the AP.
In a Facebook video shared by Brookhaven Academy earlier this month, Durr is seen speaking to preschoolers about spreading happiness to others, telling them: “You’re fireflies, and you can light up for the world.”
Despite the tragic events, family and friends of the victims have expressed love and forgiveness.
Tommy Clopton, Blackwell’s football coach, remembered the teen as a fierce competitor who challenged himself and others to be their best at all times.
“He understood what it meant to his brother’s keeper and take care of his family and we’re going to miss him for a long time,” Clopton told a Clarion-Ledger reporter.
Blackwell’s father echoed that description.
“He loved easy and he loved hard. It was easy for him to love you and he would do anything, even if it was something hard, to prove that he loved you, and in his dying moment, he was showing the hard side,” he told the Daily Leader.
He went on to stress the importance of practicing forgiveness and reaching out to someone when they’re in distress.
“Love from family is one thing, help from family is one thing, but sometimes we all need professional help,” he said.
Godbolt was arrested early Sunday morning and faces one count of capital murder and seven counts of first-degree murder.
During an interview with a Clarion-Ledger reporter, filmed as he sat at the edge of the road with his hands cuffed behind him, Godbolt said he only meant to talk to his wife and recover his children.
He added, “I ain’t fit to live, not after what I’ve done.”
There are lots of different ways to learn about gun violence. You can read a story in the media about a shooting, God knows there are enough shootings every day. Or you can take a look at a video, a new one on Vice is worth a look. Or you can read a book by going to Amazon, doing a search under Books>Gun Violence and hundreds of titles will appear. But to my mind the single, best writing on gun violence that has ever been done is the new novel, A Book of American Martyrs, by Joyce Carol Oates.
She is such a good writer that I am almost afraid to say anything about her work. All I know is how difficult it is for me to write 650 words and try to say exactly what I want to say. She gets every word right in a 700-page book! It’s simply the best work of fiction I have ever read and I have been reading adult fiction for more than 50 years.
This novel is set in a smallish town, a roundabout kind of place in Ohio which Oates calls Muskegee Falls. The narrative begins with the chilling description of the fatal shotgunning of a doctor who performs abortions at a local women’s center; the shooter being an Evangelical lay minister named Luther Dunphy, whose involvement with his church includes being energized by the anti-abortion movement as well.
I’m not going to go further into the novel itself, except to say that the story line is carried along through the parallel experiences of the family members of both the murdered physician and the shooter as everyone involved struggles to continue their lives with the shadow of this ghastly act hanging over their heads.
What drives this remarkable work, however, is not the almost surgical-like precision with which the author gets into the mind of the ‘soldier of Christ,’ as Dunphy calls himself. Rather, it is the writer’s ability to construct and reconstruct how the world changed for the families of both dead men, to the point that it’s difficult to think of either family not being deeply scarred, perhaps irrevocably damaged by the decision by one man to end the life of another.
When gun violence prevention (GVP) activists talk or think about the human toll of gun violence, the issue always centers around the 125,000 people who kill or injure themselves or others every year with guns. These people are always referred to as the ‘victims’ of gun violence, and we divide them into different categories of victimization – suicide, homicide, intentional or unintentional injury and something we politely call ‘legal intervention,’ which means when someone is shot by a cop.
But what about the people who aren’t actually hit by a bullet yet suffer grievous but non-physical trauma from the shooting as well? Most suicide victims leave family behind who in many cases are unable to lead ‘normal’ lives because the person who committed suicide was also the one who earned. As for fatal and non-fatal intentional shooting victims, more than three-quarters are between the ages of 15 and 35. Their deaths or injuries create emotional and financial chasms for themselves and for the ones who are left behind or must care for them for the remainder of their lives. For the shooters themselves and their families, they will have to live with an awareness that someone they know and perhaps even love has committed an unspeakable act whose costs can never be acknowledged or even understood.
And this is the literary landscape which forms the texture of Joyce Carol’s book. Nobody from either family comes out of the experience whole, and neither family ever truly understands what happened or why things turned out the way they did. Which is what makes this remarkable book so engrossing, because most acts of gun violence fade from the public consciousness in a day or two. In this narrative, an act of gun violence fades but never goes away.