WASHINGTON — The last member of Congress to be shot while in office was former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), shot in the head by a would-be assassin during a strip-mall meet-and-greet with constituents in her home district on Jan. 8, 2011.
Giffords weathered an arduous recovery period, resigning from Congress a year after the shooting. She and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, became gun-control advocates and founded Americans for Responsible Solutions.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) was shot in the hip and was in critical condition after this morning’s attack on a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. Rep. Roger Williams’ (R-Texas) aide Zachary Barth, Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika and two Capitol Police officers were also wounded: David Bailey and Krystal Griner. Mika was reportedly in critical condition.
The gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., had been arrested in 2006 for attacking his daughter and her friend, and threatening the friend’s boyfriend with a 12-gauge shotgun. The Belleville News-Democrat also reported that on March 24 neighbors called police on Hodgkinson shooting in the woods behind his home; cops found he had a valid firearms permit.
Hodgkinson was wounded by the officers and later died.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, nor if you’re a senator or a representative, nor a staffer or a sworn officer. If you serve the institution of Congress, you’re connected to your colleagues, current and former, by a shared sense of service to ideals far greater than yourself. This shooting is an attack on all who serve and on all who participate in our democracy,” Giffords said in a statement issued by Americans for Responsible Solutions.
“I am heartbroken for the pain of Congressman Scalise, the other victims, and their family, friends, and colleagues who survived. I am thankful for the great courage of the Capitol Police, who were my protectors after I was shot and became my friends. I also know the courage it takes to recover from a shooting like this, and I know Steve and everyone there this morning have such courage in great supply,” she added.
“May all Americans come together today with prayers for the survivors, love for their friends and family, and the courage to go about everyday making this country its best. Our nation is resilient, and we always come back stronger.”
Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence said in a statement that “all Americans, including our elected leaders, should live in an environment where they can pursue everyday activities without fear of being shot.”
“Far too many Americans know what it’s like to be shot or have a loved one killed by gun violence,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said she was “devastated by this morning’s shooting tragedy,” and added that “Americans should be able to play baseball, dance in a nightclub, and attend religious services without the threat of gun violence. We all deserve better.”
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who was at the practice in Alexandria, told reporters that the shooting should spur review of congressional security and letting lawmakers carry in D.C. Members of Congress are allowed to bring unloaded guns into the Capitol for purposes such as props during press conferences.
“If this had happened in Georgia, he wouldn’t have gotten too far,” Loudermilk told reporters. “I had a staff member who was in his car maybe 20 yards behind the shooter who was penned in his car, who back in Georgia carries a 9mm in his car. I carry a weapon. He had a clear shot at him, but here we’re not allowed to carry any weapons here.”
Asked if members should be allowed to carry in D.C., Loudermilk said, “We need to look at some kind of reciprocity for members here, but also we need to look at security details.”
Capitol Police were at the ballfield only because Scalise, a member of congressional leadership, was there.
“This is exactly why there’s a lot of fear of even doing town halls at this point,” Loudermilk said. “Some of the things this guy is posting on Facebook — we get the same things and even worse.”