GOP Congressman 'Regrets' Blaming Democrats' Rhetoric For Virginia Shooting

Rep. Chris Collins added that safety would improve if more people carried guns.

Written by Daniel Marans

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) expressed “regret” for suggesting that Democratic rhetoric about President Donald Trump had inspired a gunman to target Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice on Wednesday morning.

James Hodgkinson, the suspect who allegedly opened fire at the baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, was a supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) with a record of violent behavior.

Reacting to the shooting shortly after it occurred on Wednesday morning in an interview on Buffalo, New York’s WBEN radio, Collins identified the “finger-pointing, just the tone and the angst, and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters” as a contributing factor in the rampage.

“I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric,” Collins added.

Later in the day, however, Collins released a statement calling on all sides, rather than just Democrats, to use more careful language.

“It’s time for all of us, including myself, to tone down our rhetoric and recognize that we are all of one country and all proud Americans,” he said.

On Thursday, Collins went further, admitting it had been a mistake to pin the blame on Democrats in the first place.

“I do regret certainly what I said at 8:05 in the morning. I’ve been careful to clarify it moving forward,” Collins said on MSNBC.

Mark Makela / Reuters
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) walked back comments blaming Democratic rhetoric for partly inspiring a shooting at a Republican Congressional baseball practice.

Collins also suggested that he views lawful gun ownership as part of the solution to preventing future violent incidents, because people with the guns could ward off attackers. 

“I do believe that a law-abiding citizen that is armed, that’s out in public, will keep himself, his staff and, in some cases, the public safe. I’m a strong believer in the NRA,” Collins said. “I do have a carry permit. And I have become certainly lax. We sometimes take our security for granted.”

Democrats have universally condemned the violent attack on the congressional baseball practice. 

Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Senate Democrats, took to the floor of the Senate to express his revulsion that the shooter, Hodgkinson, was a supporter of his who had volunteered on his presidential campaign.

“I am sickened by this despicable act, and let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms,” the Vermont senator said.

The annual congressional baseball game is slated to continue as planned at 7:05 pm on Thursday.