The attempted massacre of Republican congressmen Wednesday morning set social media on fire, resurrecting debate over gun laws and political rhetoric – and that was before the suspected gunman was even identified.
“Armed men stopped the political murder of Republicans today,” attorney and writer Kurt Schlichter tweeted after multiple shots rang out during an early-morning congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, VA.
Authorities have said suspected shooter James Hodgkinson shot and wounded Rep. Steve Scalise and an aide, and two Capitol Hill police officers were also wounded when they exchanged gunfire with the gunman, fatally wounding him.
During a brief press conference, President Donald Trump announced the gunman had died of his wounds.
Scalise, who is House Majority Whip, is guarded by Capitol Hill police and Sen. Rand Paul told Fox News the baseball field would have been a “massacre” if those officers were not present.
Scalise was wounded near second base and eyewitnesses said he attempted to crawl to safety.
Left-wing blogger Joe Jervis resurrected two 2015 tweets from Scalise in which the congressmen bragged that Republicans defeated an “ammo ban” proposed by President Obama and his “liberal lieutenants,” a reference to a controversial regulation from the ATF. A second tweet described a bill to “remove burdens on law-abiding #gun owners.”
The old tweets ginned up predictable reactions from some followers.
“This tweet had not aged well,” one person wrote.
“Talk about your chickens coming home to roost,” a second person wrote.
At a post-shooting press conference, Gov. Terry McAuliffe blamed firearms and called for stricter gun laws.
“There are too many guns on the street,” the Democratic governor said.
Eyewitnesses have said the gunman was armed with a rifle and one eyewitness told Fox News it appeared to be an AK-47 due to the long, curved magazine.
Shooting eyewitness Rep. Mo Brooks was asked by the media if the shooting had changed his views about the “gun situation” in the U.S. He compared Second Amendment rights to the First Amendment that allows people to say “really ugly things” and the Fourth Amendment that allows criminals to go free.
“These rights are there to protect Americans,” he said. “And while each of them has a negative aspect to them, they are fundamental to our being the greatest nation in world history.”
‘This has got to stop’
Rep. Jeff Duncan told media after the shooting that he spoke to the soon-to-be shooter who asked him if the players on the baseball field were “Democrats or Republicans.”
The attempted massacre comes just weeks after comedian Kathy Griffin was denounced for a mocked beheading of Trump and at the same time a New York City theatre is being criticized for a Trump look-alike who is stabbed to death in its version of Shakespheare’s “Julius Caessar.”
Soon after the shooting, right-wing bloggers filled their Twitter feeds with controversial tweets and left-wing Facebook groups that advocate violence against conservatives and Republicans.
The possible Facebook page for Hodgkinson, meanwhile, shows support for Sen. Bernie Sanders and denounces President Trump.
In a statement, Sen. Sanders said he has learned the suspected shooter worked as a volunteer for his presidential campagn and denounced the “despicable act” and called for “nonviolent action.”
Even before people were poring over the Facebook page, Rep. Rodney David, who witnessed the shooting, was denouncing the “political rhetoric and political discourse” that led to the shooting.
“This has got to stop,” he said.
National Review writer Jim Geraghty asked on Twitter if the Left would blame the gunman’s political views.
“So do we believe that political rhetoric drives people to commit violent crimes or not?” Geraghty asked.
Speaking on the House floor Wednesday morning, Speaker Paul Ryan said he appreciated the photo of Democratic congressmen gathering at their own baseball practice to pray for their colleagues.
“We do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber,” he said.