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The Shooting of Steve Scalise: Gun Control, Partisanship, and the State of Affairs

Louisiana representative Steve Scalise, along with two other Republican Washington cohorts, was shot Wednesday morning near the nation’s capitol, in Alexandria, Virginia during practice for the annual Republican-Democrat baseball game. Although reported to be in stable condition and good spirits after the shooting, he is now in critical-but-improving condition, having undergone three surgeries in as many days. The shooting suspect is the only one involved in the shooting to have died from his injuries so far, although others are in critical condition.


As the majority whip, Scalise is the third most prominent Republican in the house, and it has yet to bet determined if the shooter was targeting him. It is the clear that the shooter was somewhat radicalized on the left. The shooter, James T. Hodgkinson of suburban Belleville, IL, shot Scalise, congressional staffer Zachary Barth, and the Director of Government Relations for the Washington office of Tyson Foods, Matt Mika. As the only official politician present, Scalise’s two capitol police officers were the only armed protection on-site. The policemen, both critically wounded and only armed with handguns, managed to sustain a fire-fight with the suspect long enough for the Alexandria police to show up. It is unclear which department fatally wounded the suspect. Fortunately, in a rare example of partisanship, the annual baseball game took place yesterday.


Scalise suffered one gunshot wound to his hip. A gunshot wound to the hip is not as fatal as a shot the chest or head, but is still particularly traumatic. The bullet, shot from a powerful SKS 7.62 Assault Style rifle, managed to shatter Scalise’s hip while also breaking his leg. It then tore through many of his internal organs resulting in severe hemorrhaging. The best cover available to a wounded Scalise was simply the two inches of grass afforded by the outfield, and witnesses describe Scalise rapidly army crawling through the grass leaving behind a trail of blood amidst the barrage of bullets. The largest concern with this type of injury is blood loss, as many major blood vessels run along the bladder, the colon, and other nearby internal organs.


Originally, citizens complained of instances of misreporting after newspapers which had originally reported his condition as stable, were now reporting his condition as critical. D.C. hospital MedStar, where Scalise is under treatment, tweeted on Thursday at 8:10PM that he was not in stable, but in critical condition, and other similar reports conferred this in the early afternoon of Wednesday. Considering Scalise’s injury, it makes sense that his condition would worsen because the surgeries necessary to stop blood-loss are very intensive.


Nowadays, dealing with a gunshot typically requires between two and ten intensive surgeries. Most people are familiar with one long, grueling surgery that is typical of a Hollywood production. The one-surgery approach was ditched as a method of addressing gunshot trauma after a study demonstrated that victims who received one lone surgery had a 15 percent survival rate, while gunshot victims who had multiple surgeries had a 77 percent survival rate. The victims have a better chance of survival because the several small surgeries put less strain on the victim’s body, although the intensity of the first few surgeries will often push a patient into critical condition. Considering that gunshot victims typically have a 77 percent survival rate after surgeries, that Scalise has the best doctors in the country working on him, and that his condition is reported as improving, his chances for survival are not grim.


This unfortunate situation has gotten Americans talking about two important topics—partisanship and gun control.


The instance has served as a unique moment for Americans to express how far they are willing to go to transcend partisanship, and it is our politicians which have been showing compassion and bipartisan support, while more right and left-wing news agencies are offering extreme views that vilify one another. For example, President Trump addressed the nation and Rep. Scalise directly, stating, “I want you to know that you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you, but of an entire nation, and frankly the entire world. America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the vicitms of this terrible shooting."


Contrarily, Alex Jones posted a video on his Youtube channel, where he accuses the left of “publicly embracing homicide as a political solution” while suggesting that this may have been coordinated with Kathy Griffin’s Death of Caesar spoof where she was recently infamously portrayed holding Trump’s severed head. The video even takes a February video of former Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaking on civil rights in the 1960’s, placing it out of context, to make listeners believe that she was addressing the aftermath of Wednesday’s shooting, “They’ve bled and yes, some of them died. This is hard. Every good thing is.”


Mayor Mitch Landrieu, along with most of Washington, took the moment to honor his former colleague, postponing his last-ever state of the city address Wednesday morning. The Democratic mayor praised his Republican colleague, “I have worked with him, and I have great admiration and respect for him.” He also encouraged us to be mindful of our humanity “I want to ask the people of New Orleans and of the country to keep him and the other victims in your thoughts and prayers. I am encouraged by reports that he is in stable condition. We continue to pray for his full and speedy recovery, and our thoughts are with his family.” 


In an age where we often complain that our politicians cannot overcome political gridlock due to partisanship, this seems to be an instance where Americans are expressing much more radical views than their incumbents. With the growing partisan divide becoming increasingly evident in public opinion, it seems hypocritical for constituents to blame their representatives of failing to transcend political borders. The aforementioned study in this paragraph also corroborates the oft-held view that partisanship is more strongly affected by positive rather than negative factors, suggesting that Alex Jones’ approach actually works to solidify and expand his base.


Many politicians and citizens alike are taking the opportunity to discuss the grim irony present in the fact that Scalise, an avid Second Amendment supporter, was shot by a radical with a legally obtained assault rifle. Scalise, who has sponsored numerous bills to make purchasing firearms more accessible and has an A+ rating by the NRA, has often advocated concealed-carry permits as a solution to crime. In this instance, one would think that the only concealed-carry permits on the baseball diamond would be held by Scalise’s capital police, but the shooter had obtained such a permit about six weeks prior to the attack.


Although there are instances where having a firearm could make one safer, a plethora of studies demonstrate that possession of a firearm not only makes a country more susceptible to homicides, but individuals as well. In one study, the US ranks in first place for public mass shootings (not counting those related to gangs or terrorist attacks) with 133 between 2000 and 2014. That puts us far ahead of Germany which had a whopping six mass shootings in the same timeframe. To argue for selection effects against this data, it should be noted that the U.S. typically falls lower than other developed countries in terms of general crime, and also has the highest number of public shootings per capita. As gun sales (which are almost impossible to track due to policies geared against transparency) have increased since the 1980’s, so has the commonality of public shootings, homicides, suicides, and the proportion of these that are carried out with guns. This means that while the US does not have a crime problem in relation to other developed countries, it does a have problem in that it’s crime is overwhelmingly more lethal than any other developed country.


When addressing violent crime in US as compared to other developed countries, it’s impossible not to talk about gun regulation. According to, Norway, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia, and Germany (all developed countries that score high on indicators of crime and public shootings) require license, registration, reason for purchase, safety training classes, and safe storage classes that significantly reduced their gun deaths far beyond the rate of the US. These stand in stark contrast to the policies of the US, which would not even pass a law to restrict the ability of those on the FBI’s terror watch-list (such as the Orlando shooter and potentially Hodgkinson) to legally purchase firearms, or to even restrict their ability to purchase firearms by requiring reason for purchase. The US only has one policy that these countries do not — the right to bear arms.


If the gun problem in America has you worried, you better get out of Louisiana — and fast. Remember that study that correlated the gun death rate with gun ownership, and found that America sits way at the right corner with the highest correlation? Well upon compiling all the U.S. states together, Louisiana sits in the top right corner as well. The Boot has the strongest relationship between gun ownership and gun deaths out of any state in America. The trend for homicide and suicide looks eerily similar, suggesting that gun ownership increases the proclivity for natural tendencies that are inherently dangerous to skyrocket out-of-hand. If you think owning a gun protects you, consider that you’re much more likely to be the victim of a homicide as a gun owner. Politicians should objectively follow the data and follower Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, who shared this advice in an emotional address to his and Scalise's House colleagues: “We do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber.” Citizens need to shed their partisan biases and do the same if we aim to stop tragedies like this from reoccurring.

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