ONE AFTER another after another on the Wednesday morning television news shows came the harrowing accounts from Republican members of Congress of how their baseball practice just hours earlier had become a bloody battlefield.
“All of a sudden we heard just a very loud pop . . . then a few seconds later it was a rally,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (Ariz.). “He was hunting us . . . there was so much gunfire, you couldn’t get up and run,” said Rep. Mike Bishop (Mich.). “I see a rifle . . . and then I hear another bam, and I realize there’s still an active shooter,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (Ala.). Quite simply, said Rep. Joe Barton (Tex.), “It was scary.” Men normally accustomed to being interviewed about the federal budget or foreign entanglements were emotional and very clearly shaken — and so must the nation be.
What occurred on that playing field just outside Washington, where a gunman seemingly nursing a political grudge unleashed an apparently premeditated attack on Republican lawmakers, amounts to an assault on democracy. Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and four others were wounded by the shooter. Quick and heroic actions by a Capitol Police security detail and Alexandria Police thankfully averted others from being shot or killed. The gunman, identified by authorities as James T. Hodgkinson III of Illinois, died after a shootout with police.
The investigation is continuing, but it appears from his social-media postings and accounts from people who knew him that Mr. Hodgkinson had strong feelings against President Trump. He had been a volunteer in the Democratic primary campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who from the floor of the Senate hours after the shooting said he was “sickened by this despicable act.”
Who knows what mixture of madness and circumstance causes someone to pick up a gun and go on a rampage? But no matter what authorities discover about Mr. Hodgkinson (and he appears to have had other troubles in his life), Wednesday’s attack should cause a gut check about what passes for political discourse in this country. It was discouraging that some on both the political right and left couldn’t wait for Mr. Scalise to even get out of surgery before escalating the rhetoric rather than toning it down.
Mr. Trump struck exactly the right tone. “We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” he said from the White House.
Beyond that, everyone will begin to seek lessons in what is at base a senseless and intolerable attack. We think Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was correct in not shying away from the issue of gun control when asked at a news conference if he was worried about the safety of politicians. He said he was concerned about all Americans’ safety from gun violence, not just politicians: “This is not what today is about, but we have too many guns on the street.”
Americans shouldn’t have to fear being victims of gun violence as they go about their lives and that includes sending their children to school, going to church, partying at a nightclub — or practicing hitting baseballs.