The shooting at a congressional Republican baseball practice on Wednesday could have been so much worse had it not been for the heroic efforts of the U.S. Capitol Police.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who was present at the time of gunfire, told MSNBC, "Everybody probably would have died except for the fact that Capitol Hill police were there."
"Had they not been there, it would have been a massacre, because there's no escaping a guy who has several hundred bullets. We had no weapons and no place to hide,” Paul said.
As reported by The Washington Examiner, Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, who was also present at the time of the shooting, echoed Paul's remarks. He told CNN that without police officers' quick response, "it could very well have been a large-scale massacre."
If police were not present, Brooks explained, "All we would have had would have been baseball bats against a rifle."
Per the account of Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Alabama, as reported by The Washington Examiner, two Capitol Police officers continued to engage the shooter, who subsequently died, after being hit themselves by gunfire.
Just how fortunate the nation is for the outcome can also be measured in a fact that is cause for further review of security procedures surrounding elected leaders: The Capitol Police would not have been on the scene had a member of the congressional leadership not been at the field.
"The only reason they were there was because we had a member of leadership on our team," Paul said, referring to House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was shot in the hip and is recovering. "By him being there, it saved everybody else's life because if you don't have a leadership person there … there would have been no security there."
So the nation breathes a sigh of relief even as it must now reflect again on the type of divisions that can promote such action against political foes.
S.C. Congressman Jeff Duncan was preparing to leave the scene when he was asked by the soon-to-be shooter whether the lawmakers present were Republicans. The 66-year-old Illinois man wanted to be sure he was not shooting Democrats.
Though the gunman had a long history of lashing out at Republicans and, according to The Associated Press, recently frightened a neighbor by firing a rifle into a field behind his Illinois home, no one expected what happened Wednesday. Yet there were potentially dangerous signs, such as his Facebook membership in a group calling itself, "Terminate the Republican Party.”
Many again in the aftermath are lamenting the lack of civil discourse, from the nation’s leaders down to the grassroots, which foments hatred and even violence. Toward a better day, we quote Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina speaking to the Senate on Wednesday:
"Today, we are shaken and encouraged. My prayers remain with my friend Steve Scalise and his family, as well as Zack Barth, the congressional staffer, Matt Mika, who was volunteering at the baseball field, and the two brave police officers, Crystal Griner and David Bailey.
“We seem to have forgotten how to disagree without being disagreeable. And today's shooting is one of the manifestations of that.
“We are simply Americans blessed by God to be a part of the American family. The polarization that pulls on the fabric of this great country is very, very dangerous. Too often, we find ourselves splitting into smaller factions. We stop listening to others' points of view. We react immediately with hostility, doubting the very intentions of folks who do not agree with your perspective. This is very dangerous for our future.”
“We must work together ensuring opportunity for all, not profiting from the division in this nation, not looking for ways to get more clicks on our pages. And why is that? Well, it's simple. Because America is stronger than this. America is better than this. We are the American family, and we must let love be the light to show us the way.”