According to multiple reports, the Secret Service said a man fatally shot himself outside the White House on Saturday. He was reportedly declared dead at the scene. Authorities say no one else was injured.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump were not at the White House; both are spending the day at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, returning to Washington, D.C. on Saturday night for a dinner event. "We are aware of the incident," Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley told CNN. "The president has been briefed."
The Secret Service said it identified the man but was withholding his name until his family was notified of the incident, NBC News reported. One eyewitness told The Washington Post that the man was standing on the Pennsylvania Ave. sidewalk, and that he heard two gunshots ring out before the man slumped to the ground. A video on Twitter from another eyewitness shows large crowds running away, presumably after the shots were fired, and sirens blaring in the background.
Slightly after noon on Saturday, the agency tweeted from its account, "BREAKING: Secret Service personnel are responding to reports of a person who allegedly suffered a self-inflicted gun shot wound along the north fence line of
@WhiteHouse." It continued tweeting updates as they came in, including that medical personnel was responding to the victim.
"The subject approached the vicinity of the North White House fence line and removed a concealed handgun and fired several rounds, none of which appear at this time to have been directed towards the White House," according to a statement released by the Secret Service.
The agency's spokesperson Cathy Milhoan told CNN that the incident took place on the north fence line, adding that the man had suffered one gunshot wound and that no agent fired shots. The Washington Post reported that Secret Service agents searched a maroon Honda sedan a few streets away from the White House, and took photos of the vehicle. They also reportedly removed some items from the trunk.
Saturday's incident comes amid a renewed fervor in calls for gun control legislation. Sparked by the deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida in February that killed 17 people, the push for common sense gun control has also led to fervid discussions about the role firearms play in American society.
Since the Parkland shooting happened, there have been several more incidents involving guns that made national headlines, including a teacher in Georgia firing a gun on school grounds, a 13-year-old boy who fatally shot himself in the school bathroom after reportedly changing his mind about committing a school shooting, and a shooting at the Central Michigan University campus that killed two.
The country has been locked in a debate over gun control for a long time, but momentum on this front has not just stalled, but slid backward, in part thanks to the National Rifle Association's powerful lobbying and public relations arms.
But in the wake of the Parkland shooting, it seems that the tide is turning. Buoyed by Parkland students' activism, major retail outlets are changing their gun sale policies, national corporations are cutting ties with the NRA, and politicians are feeling the heat and signaling their openness to gun law reform.
Comprehensive gun control laws may still be a ways away. But with the 2018 elections coming up and the conversation shifting to produce results in the form of concrete action, change could be around the corner — not through bills in federal or state legislatures (at least not yet), but in company boardrooms; in schools and at home; and perhaps most importantly, at the ballot box come the midterm elections.