Reports from the Congressional baseball game shooting in the Alexandria, Virginia neighborhood of Del Ray continue to pour in at this hour. Based on multiple first-hand reports from Congressmen on the scene, namely Representatives Gary Palmer (R-AL), Brad Wenstrup (R-OH), and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), we can confirm the shooter (identified by the Washington Post as James T. Hodgkinson), used both a rifle and a pistol during the attack.
Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) who is a retired U.S. Marine and was at the shooting said he could identify that the gunman started his attack from somewhere behind the third base dugout and moved while shooting, from outside the fence line, as if he were traveling down toward the third base line. See the area as depicted below in these 2014 photos from Google:
Bergman stated that when the shooting began, he immediately recognized the report as that from rifle fire, and then, later on, saw the shooters empty semi-automatic pistol on the ground, confirming reports from the other Congressman present that both a rifle and pistol were used in the attack.
The shooting occurred in Alexandria, Virginia. Virginia is a generally permissive regarding the rights of its inhabitants to own and carry firearms. While the Alexandria city government is hostile to gun rights, they don’t have much say in the matter as the Commonwealth of Virginia has enacted a widespread preemption. That law disallows local governments from engaging in their own gun control schemes. Virginia allows gun carrying legally – concealed with a permit, and one can openly carry a handgun or rifle in Virginia without prior government permission.
Much of the information given early on in these instances is not reliable and will change. Some of that is due to ignorance of the subject matter – Jeff Flake (R-AZ), for instance, described the shooter using an “obviously large gauge rifle.” Well, rifles aren’t measured in gauges, shotguns are — and caliber, which is presumably what he meant — is not determinable by listening to a firearm report. It’s important to remember that police officers, soldiers and others who are trained to respond to active shooters seldom accurately remember the details of the events. Important questions like how many shots were fired at you and how many shots did you fire, as well the duration of an incident, are often misremembered. Dr. Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor of Social Ecology, and Professor of Law, and Cognitive Science at UC Irvine is perhaps the world’s preeminent scholar on eyewitness memories of traumatic events says:
One of the things that we know about memory is that when you experience something extremely upsetting or traumatic, you don’t just record the event like a video tape machine would work, the process is much more complex and what’s happening is you’re taking in bits and pieces of the experience, you’re storing some information about the experience, but it’s not some indelible image that you’re going to be able to dig out and replay later on.
With that in mind, expect many of the details now reported to change consistent with the physical evidence collected at the scene.
One thing that will not change regardless of the facts is that those who wish to disarm you and me will use the attack to advance their imperative that we must be disarmed. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe rushed to the scene announcing “This is not what today is about, but we have too many guns on the street.” He just happened to be ready with statistics from Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun prohibitionist organization started, funded, and controlled by former N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, quoting their figure that 93 Americans are killed each day with guns. That we must go about our business absent a security detail provided at taxpayer expense is merely our burden I suppose.
McAuliffe’s anti-gun rhetoric and those of others will likely ratchet up in the next few days. But lest we all forget, it was the return fire that brought the gunman down in Alexandria today or in the words of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is would have been “a killing field.”