Former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords responded to the shooting in Alexandria against congressional Republicans Wednesday morning as they practiced baseball in preparation for the upcoming Congressional Baseball Game. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Tyson Foods lobbyist Matt Mika, two Capitol Hill police agents, and a congressional staffer were among those shot in what sources described as a "deliberate attack." Scalise is undergoing surgery and in stable condition.
"My heart is with my former colleagues, their families & staff, and the US Capitol Police — public servants and heroes today and everyday," she wrote on her personal account Wednesday morning.
Four hours later, Giffords expanded on her initial Tweet, encouraging people to "come together with prayers for the survivors, love for their friends and family, and the courage to make this country its best."
In an official statement, she relayed how "it doesn't matter if you're a Democrat or a Republican," and said she was "heartbroken for the pain of Congressman Scalise, the other victims, and their family, friends, and colleagues who survived."
In 2011, Giffords was shot in the head when a gunman, Jared Lee Loughner, opened fire outside a Tuscon supermarket while she met with constituents. Six of the victims, including a nine-year-old girl, were killed in the attack. Loughner later pleaded guilty to 19 federal charges and was sentenced to life without parole.
Since the shooting, Giffords and her husband have been fierce proponents for increased gun control. While she survived the attack, she suffered life-threatening injuries, underwent brain surgery, and ultimately resigned from Congress. She is the most recent congressperson to be shot, prior to today's attack.
In 2013, Giffords and her husband, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, created the nonprofit group Americans for Responsible Solutions to combat gun violence and encourage responsible gun ownership. Each year, around 30,000 Americans die from gun violence, according to statistics on her site. Every single day, eight children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by a gun.
The shooter in Wednesday morning's attack has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, IL, according to law enforcement. Hodgkinson owns a home inspection business, and was charged in 2006 with battery and aiding damage to a motor vehicle, according to the Washington Post. However, the charges were ultimately dismissed.
Hodgkinson reportedly volunteered with Senator Bernie Sander's presidential campaign. In a statement responding to the suspect's alleged ties to his campaign, Sanders condemned his actions and said, "I am sickened by this despicable act."
In the aftermath of the shooting, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, who was also at the baseball practice, told ABC7 Good Morning Washington Reporter Sam Sweeney that the incident hadn't changed his views on gun control.
"The Second Amendment right to bear arms is to ensure that we always have a republic," he said. "And as with any constitutional provision in the Bill of Rights, there are adverse aspects to each of those rights that we enjoy as people."
So far this year, there have been over 27,000 incidents of gun violence across the country. Among those incidents, 6,871 people were killed — including 300 children.
Despite the high rates of gun violence, the U.S. continues to lack a clear federal law against gun trafficking. Additionally, federal law and many states don't require background checks on gun purchases, allowing potentially dangerous individuals to purchase guns with no questions asked.
Since the establishment of Congress in 1789, 17 members have been shot while in office. The most recent shooting since the 2011 incident against Giffords occurred in 1978, when Representative Leo Ryan of California was killed while investigating Jonestown in Guyana.