Government & Politics

Kansas, Missouri politicians saddened by ‘unspeakable evil’ of shooting in Virginia

Lawmakers from Kansas and Missouri reacted with shock to an attack on their colleagues at a baseball practice for an upcoming charity game and called for national unity in the wake of the violence.

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and majority whip, was among the victims when a gunman opened fire in in Alexandria, Va., where congressional Republicans had gathered for baseball practice. The other victims injured in the attack include two Capitol police officers, an aide to U.S. Rep. Roger Williams of Texas and a government relations director for Tyson foods.

The alleged shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, died in the hospital. No lawmakers from the Kansas City region were injured in the attack.

U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, a freshman Republican who represents western Kansas, said this morning’s practice was one of the few practices for the charity congressional game that he has missed.

“Steve Scalise is the leader of our team in so many ways,” Marshall said in a statement. “Whether it is on the baseball field, the House floor, or in life, he is always encouraging, motivating and supporting his Members and teammates. Just two days ago, Steve and I were riding together to an event at the Secretary of the Interior’s office, enjoying each other’s company. He is a terrific friend and father, and his wife and two kids are in my prayers.”

Marshall called the shooter a coward and said that the attack was “an insult to America, our way of live and our ability to put politics aside and enjoy a pastime to benefit charity.”

During a speech on the Senate floor later that day, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said that “no act of violence, no matter how evil or senseless, will ever come close to shaking the foundations of our democracy.”

“But we are always brought at moments like this to the important recognition that we’re Americans first,” he said. “That’s why our country will always be a beacon of freedom. But the things we debate every day are not nearly as big or powerful as the things that unite us every day. And moments like this bring that sense of unity and concern and commitment to maintain a society that is free and secure, and a greater appreciation for those who spend all day, every working day, with that as their principle obligation, and we owe a great debt of gratitude.”

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican from Kansas, said he was stunned by the shooting. Neither Moran nor his staff were present at the shooting.

“I am shocked and saddened by the news of this morning’s shooting and am praying for all impacted,” he said in a statement. “Today and every day I am thankful for the efforts of the United States Capitol Police and all who work to keep those who serve in Congress and our staff safe.”

The region’s Democrats reacted with sympathy to the victims and condemnations of the violence.

“What unspeakable evil,” U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said in a statement. “I’m praying that Representative Scalise, these courageous officers, and everyone else affected will be ok. There should be no partisanship here—we should come together against evil, united by our common decency.”

After a morning briefing where members of the House were brought up to speed, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Kansas City Democrat., said he thought this time can be vitally important, to people on both sides of the aisle. He said that he’s had conversations with others who admit that they dial up the partisan divide as a means of convincing voters back home to stick with them come the next election.

But, he suggested: “We need to pray for the injured. We need to praise the Capitol Police, then we need to focus on ourselves. The most important lesson we can take out of this is to tone down our rhetoric.”

The shooter, he said, will turn out to be whoever they were.

“This is praying time, which means this is also time for introspection,” he said. “The sad reality is that we cannot control the person with a gun. We can’t stop him. But we can control ourselves, and we can stop ourselves from creating a vitriolic atmosphere. We must now examine our own spirit.”

U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, whose district covers northern Missouri, also offered his prayers for the victims.

“Terrible news this morning,” Graves said in a statement. “My prayers are wth everyone affected by this, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise and all of the brave members of the U.S. Capitol Police.”

Members of both state’s delegations took to social media to express their sympathy for the victims and pray for Scalise’s recovery.

Robert A. Cronkleton: 816-234-4261, @cronkb

Bryan Lowry: 816-234-4077, @BryanLowry3