According to Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán, the Democratic representative from California's 44th Congressional District, multiple threatening phone calls have been made against Democrats since news of the GOP baseball shooting in Alexandria broke Wednesday morning. Rep. Barragán's statement was reported by BuzzFeed News' Ema O'Connor on Twitter, saying that Democrats have since received calls claiming "You guys are next."
Obviously, the number and intensity of the calls Barragán says Democrats have received is not clear, but it's a worrisome detail all the same. It's already been a chaotic and dangerous morning. Early Wednesday, a gunman opened fire on an Alexandria, Virginia baseball field where Republican congresspeople were practicing for Thursday's bipartisan game at Nationals Park — a game which is still scheduled to be played. The gunman reportedly hit five different people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, but fortunately there have been no reports of any deaths so far.
While threats against public figures are not entirely uncommon, especially for people in politics, there's been some heightened awareness of these sorts of threats lately. No less than two potential Democratic candidates for office have given up their political ambitions in the last several weeks amid death threats, and Wednesday's violent attack on the GOP baseball practice will likely amp up concerns among the political class even further.
Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan tells me that multiple Democratic members of the House have gotten calls saying "you guys are next."— Ema O'Connor (@o_ema) June 14, 2017
Former Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords spoke out following news of the GOP baseball shooting, voicing her grief and saluting the capitol police for their role in protection America's officeholders. Giffords, 47, was until Wednesday the last member of Congress to have been shot, when she was nearly killed at a public event in her Arizona district back in 2011.
My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police- public servants and heroes today and every day.— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) June 14, 2017
Especially in the immediate aftermath of violent incidents like these, it's important to remember that early, initial reports can often be misleading or premature. For instance, law enforcement hasn't yet given any insights into the shooter's motivations, although some information alleging left-wing political views have been spotlighted by the press. He also, however, allegedly has a history of personal violence, which could be just as instructive in understanding what happened.
It's also true that immediately following such a high-profile attack on Republican lawmakers, a sudden spike in threats against Democrats, however unacceptable, would sadly not be a surprise. Some lawmakers from both political parties have reportedly discussed "toning down" hard-edged political rhetoric in the aftermath of the attack, although based on the currently available facts, it's impossible to judge whether rhetoric played actually played a role in this incident.