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A loathsome ambush at a baseball diamond

Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

The early morning peace of a public ball field in Alexandria, Va., was shattered early Wednesday when a man wielding a rifle opened fire on House Republicans gathered to practice for the Congressional Baseball Game, one of the few purely recreational events that bring lawmakers from both sides together in a spirit of comity.

Among the wounded were House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, a congressional aide, and two courageous law enforcement officers who returned fire.

President Donald Trump announced that the shooter, identified as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, from Belleville, Ill., had died. Authorities said it was too early to determine a motive, but the Belleville News-Democrat reported that Facebook posts showed Hodgkinson supported anti-Republican causes. He also volunteered for Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders during the presidential campaign.

There are shootings every day in this country, and each one is its own tragedy, to be grieved and regretted. But there is something especially chilling and loathsome about a shooter ambushing elected officials who are just playing a little summer ball, as many Americans do, hoping to have a little fun and raise money for local charities.

For those unfamiliar with the event, the Congressional Baseball Game is a hallowed bipartisan tradition dating back to 1909. With occasional interruptions over the years, it has brought House and Senate, Democrat and Republican alike together on the ball field. It was gratifying to see the concern expressed by Democratic players, who were on a nearby field and immediately huddled in prayer upon hearing the news. And this nation is fortunate to have courageous law enforcement officers who put themselves in harm’s way to prevent the shooting from turning into a massacre.

Two Minnesota congressmen participate in this annual event: Rep. Tim Walz plays for the Democrats, and Rep. Erik Paulsen for the Republicans. Paulsen rooms with Scalise and said he would have been on the field but for an earlier commitment to take constituents on a tour. The Editorial Board is grateful that both are safe.

The men and women who serve their country through elective office give much of themselves, and know they can become targets at any time. Rep. Gabriel Giffords was shot in the head — and remarkably survived — during an open event she held in 2011 to meet with constituents. Scalise is, thankfully, safely through surgery and on the mend.

In a move to be admired, lawmakers on the two teams have already said their game, scheduled for Thursday, will go on. This nation cannot, should not, let episodes of violence — whatever the genesis — further shatter our way of life. We cannot let violence force us to retreat further from one another.

One House member said she has seen Republican and Democratic colleagues holding hands and comforting one another in the aftermath of this event. That kind of united front and common decency is what ultimately defeats violence and hatred. We hope it continues.

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