Guns Life in General

The Need for Conversations After the Alexandria Shooting

Celeste Fremon
Written by Celeste Fremon

On Thursday afternoon, the news about Congressman Steve Scalise remained frighteningly uncertain, even after two surgeries and many units of transfused blood. But, by Thursday night, the news had improved slightly when a statement from the Medstar Washington Hospital Center said that “the Congressman will require additional operations, and will be in the hospital for some time” but although his condition remains “critical,” said the hospital, he “has improved in the last 24 hours.”

Lobbiest Matt Mika, who was also badly wounded in the shooting, is reportedly still in intensive care with chest wounds, but his condition was upgraded from critical to “serious.”

The report that a 66-year-old man who was angry about the policies of President Trump opened fire on Republican members of Congress as they were in the middle of baseball practice on a softball field in Alexandria, VA, in a few cases with their kids present, was horrific and sobering news for most Americans.

Those present at the shooting nearly to a person have said that, were it not for the three officer detail of capital police who were assigned to Scalise because of his position as majority whip, what was a terrifying attack would likely have been a bloodbath, “a massacre.”

The officers, two of whom were wounded, kept attacker James T. Hodgkinson from making it on to the field where he could more easily pick off the rest of the Congressional team members, who had few places to find cover.

Of course, as terrible as it was, what happened in Alexandria wasn’t even Wednesday’s worst mass shooting. A few hours after the now dead Mr. Hodgkinson opened fire on members of the U.S. Congress, another gunman killed three men at a UPS facility in San Francisco and then shot himself.

Still the idea of a well-armed and, by-definition, disturbed person deciding that the best solution to his political grievances is to kill as many of those whom he perceives as members of the political opposition, suggests a fracturing of the public discourse that one would hope would concern all of us.

Members of Congress had a day of what sounded like genuine self-searching discussion about not allowing demonization became part of the normally adversarial political discourse.

And then, of course, there is the ever-present gun issue.

Since Wednesday’s Alexandria shooting, essays, Op-Eds, and additional news stories have also added to the conversation in various ways, some better than others.

Here are excerpts from a few we found that we thought were worth checking out.

Domestic Abuse and Mass Shooting

At the New Yorker, staff writer Jane Mayer, who is also the author of the two best selling books, Dark Money, and The Dark Side, looked at the connection between domestic violence and mass shooters, which points to the larger gun conversation. But rather than advocating for any particular policy changes, Mayer’s story brings up a troubling side issue that likely in some way needs to be factored in:

“Within hours of the shooting of the House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, and four others,” Mayer wrote one couldn’t help but feel tired watching the predictable brief moment of political unity. The country has been through enough horrors to know that political adversaries will soon line up and take their battle stations on Twitter and talk shows as no solutions are found and no lessons are learned. They will blame each other’s political ideologies and rhetoric for the bloodshed. It won’t be long until the conspiracy theorists come along and throw doubt on whether the facts are the facts, or something more sinister.

“No one wants to talk policy reform so soon, but there’s one that is glaringly necessary, and really ought not to be divisive. Wednesday’s shooter, James Hodgkinson, reportedly had a history of domestic violence. Yet he was able to legally obtain an assault rifle. These two facts are incompatible with public safety….”

Mayer also pointed to Rebecca Traistor’s related story about “What Mass Killers Have in Common” for New York Magazine published just under a year ago, in July 2016.

The Daily Beast also quickly turned up some alarming reports about Hodgkinson’s alleged long-term pattern of assaulting family members, specifically, his foster daughter, and others. Here’s an excerpt:

….He was the foster father of at least two girls. The first, Wanda Ashley Stock, 17, committed suicide in 1996 by pouring gasoline on herself and setting herself on fire after a few months of living with the Hodgkinsons, the Belleville News-Democrat reports. The Hodgkinsons gave an interview to the paper after her suicide, calling her a “very practical, level-headed girl.”
Privacy laws do not allow the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services to release foster records.

In 2002, Hodgkinson became the foster father of another girl whom he allegedly abused, according to police records.

In 2006, he was arrested for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm after he stormed into a neighbor’s home where his teenage foster daughter was visiting with a friend. In a skirmish, he punched his foster daughter’s then 19-year-old friend Aimee Moreland “in the face with a closed fist,” according to a police report reviewed by The Daily Beast. When Moreland’s boyfriend walked outside of the residence where Moreland and Hodgkinson’s foster daughter were, he allegedly aimed a shotgun at the boyfriend and later fired one round. The Hodgkinsons later lost custody of that foster daughter.

“[Hodgkinson] fired a couple of warning shots and then hit my boyfriend with the butt of the gun,” Moreland told The Daily Beast on Wednesday.

Hatred Instead of Disagreement

Over at the LA Times, staff writer Mark Z. Baraback wrote that the shooting is not surprising, occurring as it has at a time when political dialogue has grown ever more poisonous.

Here’s a clip from what Baraback had to say:

The targeted shooting of Republican lawmakers at play yielded a kaleidoscope of emotions Wednesday — anger, revulsion, horror — but little in the way of surprise.

The attack almost seemed a natural, if sick, extension of the virulence that surrounds the country’s increasingly tribal politics.

As if to prove it, events quickly settled into a familiar pattern: finger-pointing, blame-laying, partisan positioning. People today don’t just disagree. They’ve grown to hate the other side…

Not necessarily over issues or ideology, which can be debated or leavened by compromise. But rather as an outgrowth of a deeper pathology, a contempt toward people [one disagrees with] for merely existing.

(By the way, if you’d like a truly disheartening demonstration of this point go to Twitter right now and search under #AlexandriaShootings. There is enough bile coming from both sides to make one want to consider species reassignment.)

Choosing Civility and Respect

Washington Post Opinion writer David Gerson explored thoughts similar to those of Baraback. Here’s an excerpt:

….At the risk of committing sociology without a license, there are a few conclusions we might draw. Extreme partisanship may not be the direct cause of violence. But political violence acts like lightning, illuminating and freezing the whole political landscape for a moment. And what we see is a ready recourse to violence — punches at rallies, assaults, death threats, violent protests and intimidation. The system seems unbalanced — easily veering off course with every provocation.

The capacity for human evil is always there. But stable societies construct restraints. Some of those restraints are institutional — balancing interest against interest, power against power. In America, such institutions are strong, even under considerable current strain. Yet human beings are also restrained by norms — unenforced and unenforceable standards of civility and respect. We rely on character in countless ways to keep people from destroying themselves and each other. And here all the demonization and decapitation fantasies — all the talk of revolution and warfare against our fellow citizens — have taken a toll.

This type of language isn’t new, of course. But the Trump era has unleashed it with a kind of fury. The routine violation of norms has taken on the nature of an arms race….This type of hashtag animus is not merely change but decay. The damage is clear. If words can inspire, then they can also incite or debase. We are on a descending path of enmity.

None of us can magically change that trend on our own. On the other hand, demonization justifies more demonization, and that ball comes back harder with each volley. So perhaps civility and lack of hatred in political disagreement, no matter how vehement that disagreement, can produce its own kind of contagion.

At least that is the hope.

And in case it isn’t obvious, at WitnessLA our thoughts are very much with Congressman Scalise and his family, and also with Matt Mika and his family.

In addition, we are deeply grateful to Special Agents Crystal Griner, David Bailey and Henry Cabrera. Griner and Baily rushed James T. Hodgkinson, despite their own wounds.


  • Respect for authority figures (President) and institutions died long ago. Watching groups, keepers, the media and special interest bound politicians made sure of that.

    Many of the same folks who foster, embrace and champion a person’s right to uncensored free speech yesterday to include vile, hatefull and violence inspiring acts such as the Alexandria shooting, try to feign the appearance of “shock and outrage” today. In the words of Steve Uriel, “Did I do that”.

    Society has become too raw, in your face and “tell it like it is” at the expense of civility and consideration for others. Gone is any sense of adult sensibility, responsibility, ownership for ones actions and words and foresight. Regretfully, we have gone to far down this path and there will be no turning back.

  • Cathy Griffin, riots at Berkeley College to prevent free speech, Democratic Congress members acting like 2 year olds with their “sit in” has all led up to Alexandria being ok.

  • Officer Jeronimo Yanez was just acquitted of all charges by a jury in the Philando Castile shooting. In today’s environment…cowardly prosecutes will indict and leave it to the jury to decide. The city of St. Anthony Minnesota intends to offer him a separation “so he can pursue a new career”. Great system of justice we have…..a polucally incorrect shooting….and count on being prosecuted and fired…..lucky the jury could see the truth…..

  • Could this witness la “story” or whatever you want to call it be more predictable? Let’s see, shall we check off the mandatory boxes? Domestic violence, the ever popular “gun violence”, how about some hand wringing over the break down of civil discourse? All good stuff, but let’s bring this baby home by blaming the “Trump era”. What a crock, the same people cut and pasted into this “story” are the same people telling us a Trump is literally Hitler, and now they want to distance themselves from their own handiwork, pathetic.

  • Hyper-partisanship and wingnuts have been around for decades, this is nothing new. If the cycle of discord, disagreements, and a dysfunctional political system continues, some people will come to believe they cannot effect change unless it’s at gunpoint. There will be more in the future. You have Hodgkinson, Dylan Roof, the idiot from Oregon, Rep. Gifford’s shooter, the list will continue to grow as politicians continue to stir the pot for their own personal gain.

    Trump, however, has failed to use his bully pulpit in the same manner as virtually all of his predecessors. Obama, Bush Jr., Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, all shared a similar skillset while in the White House. They crafted their communications carefully, they controlled their message, it was disseminated consistently throughout their administrations, and they never brazenly pitted one group against another for political gain. Trump is in a world all of his own making, and his most ardent fans cheer him on without realizing they do so to their own detriment. Trump is not responsible, of course, for what happened, and neither is any particular politician or party. He has done too many things, however, that exacerbate an existing and growing problem.

  • LATBG you’re a good little boy and you think all the approved ,righteous and good thinking things that you’re supposed to as given to you by those in power. The word “cuck” comes to mind, look it up.

    • I marvel at how you “pseudo intellectual” young pups (kong) randomly nip at the heels of LATBG. Its like a little league team up against the major leagues…….no match. That’s why I’m still laughing!

  • Really, LATBG’s discourse where he wrote none of the administrations he mentioned “brazenly pitted one group against another for political gain” is something you believe to be true? You didn’t live in this country during The Obama years? Come on, tell me you’re not that naive Still Laughing and I’m certainly no “young pup.”

    • I’m specifically speaking of “Major Kong’s” reference to LATBG as “good little boy”. Let’s face it….we all have our opinions on any given subject, some fact based and some based on bullshit. Major Kong basically is attempting to goad LATBG with a weak response.

  • Oh, and to be clear I campaigned for Cruz. Voted for Trump because no other choice but to do so. I like some of what he’s done, certainly his support of Blue which the Dems could care less about but wish he would shut up and just work. There you go.

  • No doubt Obama made his share of mistakes early on, particularly when he interjected himself foolishly in several incidents involving the criminal justice system. I just don’t recall him or any other president before him claiming those who didn’t vote for him to be his enemies, or the “evil” media was the enemy of the nation.

    I also don’t recall any president before Trump rallying white voters in Minnesota against the Somali population there, or stoking resentment of red states against blue states like ours. In fact, Trump is the first president I know who has deliberately chosen an electoral strategy designed to cater to a shrinking majority of white, mostly uneducated voters in rust belt states, all while moving aggressively to suppress minority voters in swing states. Not even Nixon’s Southern Strategy comes close.

    Sure Fire, corporate America appreciates your unwavering, if not unwitting, devotion to their bottom line.

  • Sorry LATBG, it’s your opinions that are in alignment with corporate America, corporate media, and the entrenched political class. They share your distain for the uneducated white voters in fly over country. I’m sure Trump isn’t perfect, but he couldn’t have better enemies.

  • I think the media was much kinder as well to our past presidents. I believe it started with former Pesident Clinton often being referred to as simply “Bill”. This not so subtle degree of disrespect was the first decent down the abyss. Fast forward to today, just as it was with former President O’bama during his early presidency, the media stokes and feeds the flame by infecting personal bias and contempt for the President of The United States of America. Even if you disagree with the man in charge he is the President…everyone’s President that decides to call the USA home.

    It is not OKAY to disrespect the leader of the free world as it makes the country look weak, in disarray and insires fanatics and nut cases to act up. Words do matter and the concept of free speech has become perverted and no longer is the legal precedent of “yelling fire in a crowded theater” used as a measuring stick for what is acceptable.

    President O’Bama and the media through gas on the fire and fanned the flames on numerous occasions after the police shootings in Florida, Missouri, Baltimore and Dallas. Civil unrest quickly followed like clockwork.

  • @ Conspiracy: Your pen name is so fitting. You need FACTS not FEELINGS, along with a Spell Checker. Trump is only “minding the store” for a brief period of time, matk my words

  • Wow, I think we have some right wing nuts on this site. Maybe someone should call the police to investigate. Problem with that is that they show up after the fact, only to investigate themselves, and still not be able to solve the crime. Let us be frank, Trump is an idiot. I do not care how you slice it, the man is an idiot. Believe it or not, I did not vote for Obama, but there is no comparison. You are entitled to your opinion, but not your facts. It is amazing to me that you complain about the government and you work for it, you complain about unions and you’re members of unions, you want to get rid of Obamacare but you have government paid health insurance, you complain about blacks and Latinos and everyone else telling you how you are bias, at least, and some racist, yet most of the police departments you work for had to be sued to allow blacks, Latinos and women to join. Amazing, I tell you.

    Look at Ownership, selectively picking and choosing his examples of why the world is going to hell in a hand basket. No one at Berkeley is infringing on free speech. The fact that the speakers are right-wing nuts, pseudo-intellectuals and proto-facists and someone protests them does not an infringement of speech make. The constitution’s prohibition against free speech, in case you did not know, applies to government actors, not other nutty college kids.

    Major Kong, you are wrong that folks disdain of the “uneducated white voters.” I think poor whites have been screwed, and, more importantly, are being screwed even harder by Trump. The difference is that Trump’s rhetoric is the Vaseline that is allowing them to get screwed even more. Nothing that trump has promised to do will benefit poor whites. I understand they voted with their middle finger, but idiotically voted against their own interest, and they are the ones that will lose out the most. Albeit, Trump has thrown them some red meat with Obamacare repeal, the tough on law and order rhetoric (dog whistle for get the blacks) and securing our boarders (dog whistle for get the wetbacks and Muslims out) , but we’ll see how badly they will be screwed. Once Captain Orange’s term is over they will barely be able to walk.

    Conspiracy, it’s “not OKAY to disrespect the leader of the free world?” Really? Spoken like a true fascist. I have no doubt that you probably threw the N-word around when Obama was president. Admit it, even you cringe at some of the dumb shit Captain Orange says sometime. I think just the opposite, it makes our country look weak if we say nothing in the face of idiocy. The man is an idiot. Covfefe.

  • Hey LATBG, much as you think you have a read on me you don’t. My devotion isn’t to anyone’s bottom line but it certainly won’t ever be to the laughable cowards that populate the left that have attempted to force their tax and social agenda down my throat for years now while telling me how worthless I am because I’m a straight White male who believes in the rule of law and not simply releasing those who are simply “Justice Affected” as the idiot mayor of L.A. makes his office refer to them time and again back into society without some type of “time out.” As the Dems in house bent over Sanders and rigged the nomination for “her” you talk about what Reps did to garner votes in places she didn’t go on her magical journey to the coronation? Shut up dude, the dirty tricks, duplicity and racist actions populate the left way more than the right these days. Look at poor Otto Wambier who the left has made fun of before his corpse is even cold for thinking his “White Privilege” was applicable in N. Korea as the cause for his death not the actions of the regime itself. Yep, the idiot Black female writer who blasted him in Ebony than did it in Huff Post and those weren’t the only leftist publications or places that trampled over this poor kids body simply because he was White and his family had a few bucks in the bank. The left is despicable, running amok with the lame and crazy, racists and cop haters. They are worthy of every ounce of hate I have for them. Now you have a read on me.

  • The entire political class imagined they were smarter than Trump, except they weren’t. Twice they knew he couldn’t win except he did. Now cf imagines he is smarter than Trump, except of course he isn’t. Well at least we got cf to lay off the n word but now he’s picking on the Latinx and still seems to have an anal fetish. The leaded gas has done its evil work on what’s left of cf’s brain.

  • I think we have some far left, anti-government, FIFA supporting crack pots on this site as well.

    CF: Seems you couldn’t resist throwing in a “N-word” reference at the end of your diatribe. You really should seek professional help for your fixation on this word. Your “fill in the blanks” style of postings are classic propaganda. If the opposing point of view doesn’t say it, I guess I’ll take the liberty and put the words in for them. Laughable.

    This isn’t the time or place for poetic license or introduction of “fictional facts” to prove a point as you and many members of the media seem so willing to employ.

    If you and the numerous other children out their can’t understand the concept of supporting the Office of The President even if you don’t support the man, you are an idiot.

    Fascist…you and your fellow left wingers fit the definition to a “t”. Intollerent to dissenting views.

  • Hey CF you light weight moron, no one at Berkeley is infringing on Free Speech? Are you really more monumentally stupid than I even thought? When you riot to keep a conservative speaker from even stepping foot onto your campus what do you call it and I’ll take it a step further you racist coward. What is it called when students of color limit the free movement of White students which has happened twice at Berkeley this year. Only the conservative sites speak on this because the pusses on the left are in lock step agreement with these Nazi like tactics, you know little trolls like you. Now crawl back into that sewer little fella, grown ups are talking.

  • By the way CF, Berkeley receives fed funds making them a de facto gov agency, they have a duty to ensure the safety of people invited to speak on their campus regardless of their political views and only tossed this duty aside for conservative ones.

  • CF, you’re so off base it’s hard to even comprehend it.

    If ANY group rioted to prevent Obama, Clinton or Lynch from speaking, you would be screaming bloody murder. Yet you’re silent because Berkeley fits your agenda. Your hypocrisy is vile.

    The left throws their Snowflake temper tantrums when they’re not hearing what they want to hear. It’s that simple.

    If the KKK was demonstrating or rioting to prevent an Alt Left speaker from speaking, I would be on the front line to arrest them!!

    CF, you are obviously unbalanced and completely naive, but it’s your hypocrisy that’s intolerable.

  • Sure Fire, you sure seem proud of your hatred towards your fellow Americans. I see a lot of straw man arguments here about the left this and the left that, I will merely point out there is no “left” or “right” group of people conspiring to commit atrocities on behalf of their political ideology. You can cherry pick all you want and try to paint half the country with a broad brush, and then hate them for it, it won’t make you any more an American than the next man. I wouldn’t hold up Jerry Sandusky, Dennis Hastert, Larry Craig, and Bernie Madoff as representatives of the right’s “family values.”

    The irony of union-card carrying public employees assailing the “left” is pretty hilarious. I don’t condone anyone trying to silence anyone else’s First Amendment rights. I would rather they speak loud and clear and remove any doubt about their foolery. I think the BLM crowd, just like the Cliven Bundy crowd, are idiots of the same persuasion.

    Sure Fire, know this: if it wasn’t for the liberals who founded this country, you would still be sipping tea at 3 and singing “God Save the Queen.” Hatred only leads to an early grave. Enjoy life while you can…

    • I too, query the position of stagnant and ignorant people who say they love America but hates anyone not cloned like themselves. The Divided States of America is zoomed in by every Country in the world. Any group lording over another only furthers division in America.

  • You’re a weakling LATBG, like most middle of the roaders. Pick a side and defend it, don’t give me a history lesson I don’t need this is 2017. Things have changed.

  • Sure Fire is right, you have to pick a side, black or white, Muslim or christian, us or them. Why make things too difficult for Sure Fire, when things can be as simple as black and white. Otherwise, its too intellectually taxing for Surefire. At the fear of overloading Surefire, I will respond to his question. If students block other students, it is students blocking other students, not the government. The 1st amendment applies to government restrictions. Ms. Freemon, for example, can block access to your sophomoric rants, but you cannot, although you will, whine about your 1st amendment rights. But, on a serious note, Surefire, you are taking this too seriously. I suggest you remove the hood when you type your rants because I think your brain is overheating.

    Conspiracy, you are right, I “can’t understand the concept of supporting the Office of The President even if you don’t support the man.” The office of the president is occupied by a man, who is human and fallible. And, in the current case, he also happens to be an idiot. You would have made a great Nazi. Right or wrong, he’s our fuhrer.

    Ownership, I believe you that if the KKK were demonstrating or rioting to prevent the left from speaking, you would be in the front line. I suspect, however, that you would be in the front of the line wearing the clean sheets. And, if in uniform, I suspect you would be arresting people, but the not the KKK. Probably some kid with a leftist poster for using his nose as a weapon against the fist of the Grand Wizard.

    Thank you, gentlemen, for your service…….on the government dime.

  • CF…. You just stooped to a new completely unnecessary low. That was as immature as it gets. You just lost ALL credibility on here.

  • Hey if it’s one thing the last election showed us it’s that people are upset with the status quo. Moving forward how about the four special elections since. How are the tactics of the left working. What do you think Celeste? Is the “resistance” making much progress? Pretty sure I see more and more loses piling up for you SJW types, more juries acquitting cops based on actual evidence and not the screaming of the haters and media “experts”, getting to be tough to be a leftie and Trump is still with us. Cool down, I’m in my element and isn’t in funny how CF again found an even lower level to sink to. By the way, my side doesn’t shut out a person based on anything dealing with their skin color, the God they worship or don’t or who they love. They just need to follow the rule of law and act for the common good. Why would people embrace anything else?

  • I actually am a college graduate CF, more than one degree as well. You think for one second if White students stopped students of color from walking in a certain area or held meetings where students of color couldn’t attend it wouldn’t have resulted in a riot, the campus and possibly city police involved and certainly administrators at the college? STFU dude, get back in the corner and put the dunce hat back on because not only would that have happened but instead of getting the very little media attention that the little event I spoke of did, this would have been the lead everywhere. Because I speak the truth about racial matters doesn’t make me a racist, makes me someone who not only knows how to read and understand stats but has been through the wars with all the groups so spare me any crazy ass comeback that’s not going to matter one bit. Truth isn’t pretty sometimes but today’s “truths” can be changed by positive organized action by a community that cares… a real smart Black guy told me that who was way involved in helping at risk youth, way smarter than you, and he was right. Problem is getting enough people to march for that type of change instead of the silly ass things they march for now.

  • Sure Fire, you appear to be very confident of the tactics of the “right.” If I recall, the Georgia special election saw the RNC and Trump lambasting Orsoff for accepting out of state money to influence the race, even though Super Pac money went 2 to 1 against him. Now it turns out a Trump spinoff group is dumping seven figures into an ad buy in Nevada to assail Sen. Heller’s opposition to Trumpcare. Hmmm, that sounds an awful lot like out of state money to me.

    When presidents nominate cabinet members who are elected officials, they always do so in circumstances where the replacements are running in safe districts or appointed by their own party. I’d wait until 2018 and we have a clear picture of Trumpcare before you start popping champagne…

  • I think Trump, though he endorsed this version isn’t sold on it, I’m not. I’m sure not happy with the ACA though are you?

    • All of these efforts will inevitably result in a single payer system for all, just like the rest of the civilized world. We pay the most in the entire industrialized world for healthcare, yet only get the 27th best outcome – mainly because of the profit margin of the insurance industry, big pharma, and hospitals. As long as the EMTALA is in effect, the 911 insurance plan will rule, meaning the taxpayer foots the bill regardless of their own insurance needs. I say ditch the insurance and big pharma collusion, and let doctors and hospitals compete for everyone’s business on a level playing field. We will always pay for the indigent because no one is comfortable with people dying in ditches for lack of care.

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