It was an early June morning and Steve Scalise and his fellow Republicans were in Alexandria, Virginia, practicing for Congress’ annual baseball game.
For reasons that still prove elusive, James Hodgkinson, 66, arrived at the baseball diamond and, standing near home plate, using an SKS 7.26 semiautomatic assault weapon, began shooting indiscriminately at the players. Several were injured but none as gravely as Scalise, who was shot in the hip. The bullet from the SKS shattered his hipbone and penetrated his lower abdomen, doing life-threatening damage to soft tissues and organs.
Last week, Scalise, using forearm crutches, returned to the House chamber where he received from both sides of the aisle a stadium-like ovation. His survival and recovery were indeed remarkable. But I viewed the scene with mixed feelings: gratitude for what he called a miracle, but aware that in the aftermath of the shooting there had been not one word spoken about gun control.
Shortly after the near-fatal wounding of Scalise, a number of bills were introduced in the House by his colleagues, bills that would allow lawmakers to carry concealed weapons as well as allowing concealed carry permits from other states to be recognized in Washington, D.C. One bill’s purpose was to eliminate federal controls on silencers/suppressors (aka the Hearing Protection Act).
The above brings to mind the incomprehensible mass shooting in Las Vegas by a still enigmatic individual, Stephen Paddock, middle-aged, wealthy and thought of as “ordinary.” Yet, over some four days he amassed in his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino 23 assault rifles, 12 of which had been legally converted from semiautomatic to automatic using what is called a bump-stock. The modified stock harnesses the energy of the recoil, causing the firing mechanism to fire far faster than originally designed. It is legal in Nevada.
From all reports, Paddock had a meticulous plan to indiscriminately kill as many people as possible, all of whom were attending a country western concert within range of the broken-out windows of his suite of rooms.
Those who were wounded and survived the hail of gunfire, which lasted some 10 minutes, will never be the same. One round from a weapon of war creates a wound that is breathtakingly horrific, shredding whatever it hits, and while it may be survivable, in truth it creates life-altering damage, the grim details often wrapped in euphemism and evasion.
Shortly after the Las Vegas shooting, when Republican members of Congress and the president were questioned about gun control, they said, to a person, “our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.” However, when pressed on the issue — stricter background checks, limits on a magazine’s capacity, a ban on assault weapons and converter kits, stricter controls on gun shows and online firearm markets, a ban on anyone on a terrorism watch list — the craven and disingenuous response was that this was not the time to politicize this tragic event.
And yet, if not now, when?
Consider the context: According to a recent New York Times op-ed, in the last 477 days in the U.S. there have been 521 mass shootings (defined as four or more people killed or injured in a single event). Beginning in June of 2016, there were 31; July, 49; August, 42; September, 32; October, 31; November, 36; December, 27. In 2017, in January, there were 31; February, 25; March, 22; April, 39; May, 23; June, 35; July 36; August, 33; September, 27; and on October 1, in Las Vegas, 59 people were killed and some 500 injured.
According to the CDC, there are nearly 12,000 gun homicides yearly. Seven children and teens are killed daily with guns. Each month, 50 women are shot to death by an intimate partner. Gun homicide is 25 times higher in America than in other developed country.
Thus far there has been no action taken by Congress. But then recall that after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings, the silence was deafening. All things considered, if this is not the time for a national soul-searching debate, then when?
— Chris Honoré of Ashland is a Daily Tidings columnist.