WASHINGTON — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) met with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students at the Capitol on Monday to share their experiences on surviving a mass shooting, though the congressman said he wasn’t swayed by the students’ gun-control advocacy.
“As a fellow survivor of a shooting attack, Whip Scalise heard from them about their experiences, shared his own experience with the group and talked about the healing process in the wake of traumatic events,” Scalise spokeswoman Lauren Fine said. “Whip Scalise noted how important his faith, family, friends and colleagues are in his recovery, and urged the students not to be afraid to ask their community for help and to keep supporting one another.”
Scalise was gravely wounded last June when a gunman opened fire on congressional Republicans practicing baseball early in the morning at a park in Alexandria, Va. He spent several weeks in the hospital before returning to Congress at the end of September.
Before the meeting, Scalise told Fox that he wanted to “close loopholes” and “figure out what went wrong with government before people start talking about taking away the rights of law abiding citizens.”
The congressman told CBS this morning that he and the students “talked about policy, but really, we talked a lot about shared experience.”
“Obviously, it got very emotional. Some of the things that they’ve been through are similar to some of the things that I’ve been through. It’s going to be a tough time for them. It already is. You know, this doesn’t go away,” he said. “It’s something that me and the other members of the Congressional baseball team still talk a lot about –what we went through. I’m sure they as students are going to continue talking about what they went through. We did talk again about some policy, but mostly just about where we are right now.”
Scalise said he told the young activists “what they’re doing up here is very important.”
“I think it’s great that they are engaging in the political process. When they go back home, they’re going to be high school students again. At some point, they’re going to be getting on with their daily lives and this is going to still be lingering with them,” he said. “The problems that they’re going to be facing, they ought to be talking amongst themselves. I’m sure there will be school-appointed counselors. But the fact that these students all went through this together, they should continue talking to each other. Don’t go hide in the corner and repress those feelings because months later it could become a bigger issue. Talk through that experience. That’s what we do up here and it’s helped all of us on the baseball team get through this. They ought to be doing the same thing.”
Some of the Parkland, Fla., students are lobbying for a ban on semi-automatic weapons. Scalise argued that “millions of people have weapons like the AR-15 and use them to defend themselves.”
“They have it for self-defense, which is the tenet of the Second Amendment, so that’s one of the things that you’ve got to balance when you’re looking at change in laws,” he said. “You’ve got to recognize, number one, in cases like this shooting and so many others, multiple laws were already broken, but worse than that, big signs were missed in many cases by government itself. The fact that government missed so many of the signs and didn’t do the things that they should have done to protect people is one of the reasons that people feel they have a need to protect themselves and their family. “
“…You can talk about any one weapon, and if you ban that weapon, does that mean that nothing else is going to happen? I think if you look, I was fortunate in my case that I had law enforcement there on the scene who acted accordingly and took down the shooter. I wish that would have happened at the school where clearly there was at least one law enforcement officer on the scene who hid instead of confronting the shooter. Maybe there were more. I think that needs to come out, and when was that known.”
Scalise said those questions about security “are the kind of things that we want to know when we say, before people go changing laws to take away the rights of law-abiding citizens, let’s get the facts and see if other people didn’t do their job in enforcing existing law.”
“That’s what angers so many people,” he added. “That existing laws are broken, and that people want to change other laws that infringe on law-abiding citizens.”