Local leaders talk security following Alexandria shooting

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was listed in critical condition at MedStar Washington Hospital as of Wednesday afternoon.

The Republican congressman was among several injured Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Va. during a GOP baseball practice for an upcoming charity game.

According to investigators, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois opened fire on the crowd as they practiced; Hodgkinson was shot and killed by Capitol Police officers.

Authorities indicated Hodgkinson was becoming increasingly frustrated with the political climate in the United States.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Republican from South Carolina, told reporters that he had interacted with the gunman Wednesday morning right before the shooting.

“I did have an interaction with someone in the parking lot who asked me if the team practicing was a Democrat or Republican team,” Duncan told reporters. “I told him they were Republicans. He said, ‘K, thanks,’ turned around. I got in the car and left, find out that my Republican colleagues were targeted by an active shooter today.”

Lawmakers from western New York took to social media immediately following the shooting. Rep. Louise Slaughter tweeted “Thinking of my colleague Steve Scalise & the others injured in this horrific shooting. Grateful for the work of Capitol Police.”

Rep. Tom Reed also took to social media, posting “My prayers are with , staff, and police involved in today’s shooting. The police on the scene are truly heroes.”

Congressman Chris Collins was on his was to a breakfast meeting when he got the news.

“Fortunately Scalise, our Whip, does travel with a security detail as one of the three Republicans that have a security detail as part of our leadership team, so the Capitol Police were there not because they were asked per se but because they always travel with our Whip,” said the Clarence Republican.

“One of my colleagues who was at the practice today said there would have been a massacre had the two Capitol Police officers not been on the scene,” Democratic Congressman Brian Higgins told News 4 Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s an injury inflicted on all of us. And we have an obligation to learn from it and to move forward. We remember and hope for the speedy recovery of our colleague Steve Scalise,” Higgins said.

Collins, who has a concealed carry permit, said he’s considering carrying a pistol in public more often following the shooting. He also stated there needs to be more security for leaders in Washington, even when they’re not on the Hill.

“I’ve just had to reconfigure my office in Lancaster to put in a secure lobby area with doors and a quote escape route out the back end,” he said.

“I’m moving my office in Geneseo, looking to move it into the government building. It’s just so sad that in this day and age security becomes something you can’t take for granted,” Collins told News 4.

Wednesday afternoon both Republican and Democratic House members gathered on the House floor to pray for Rep. Scalise and the other individuals injured.

News 4 also spoke to local party leaders, who hope highly partisan rhetoric in Washington calms down following the “senseless tragedy.”

“It’s really a sad day in our country’s history I think. Just like I think it was 6 years ago, the violence, the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, this is the same circumstances,” said Erie County GOP Chair Nick Langworthy.

“The political discourse in our country is off the charts negative-wise. I’m hoping that those involved are all taken care of and rehabilitated quickly and get back to work and I’m hoping that we can have a more civil discourse while engaging in the process,” Jeremy Zellner, Erie County’s Democratic Chair told News 4.

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