Rep. Lou Barletta, a Pennsylvania Republican, said Wednesday that members of Congress should cut back on hosting town hall forums after an Illinois man shot House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and three others on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia.
Barletta was asked on Pennsylvania radio station WILK
by host Sue Henry if members of congress should "curtail" town halls "until we agree that we need to be more civil."
"I think absolutely. There's no question," Barletta answered.
He continued, "I've been at the end of some of those town halls where the police had to carry people out and I get concerned not only for your own safety, but for the safety of the people who are there, who actually come to be heard and even if you have an opposing opinion, that's great. That's what these events are for, but there's a level, you know, when people cross a line to actually inciting other people and when individual safety becomes an issue then the purpose of doing it is lost."
Barletta, who earlier this year said
he felt that in-person town halls had become a "circus." went on to say that he'd tried to find other ways to hear people's concerns, but added that town halls "have become such really, just targets for people to try to incite other people and it's not good."
"We're seeing the violence that's going on around the country," he continued. "And again, these are men and women who are trying to serve. And you're not gonna get people that wanna serve if they feel they can't do so without the risk of being shot at or having somebody else hurt because of an event that you had."
The radio interview was conducted before the shooter was identified
as James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old home inspector from Belleville, Illinois. A review of his social media profiles and letters to his local newspaper found that he was intensely engaged in partisan politics, a supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, and harshly critical of Donald Trump. He also had multiple past run-ins with police, including a violent 2006 incident with his daughter's friends that led to battery charges that were later dismissed.
In the interview, Barletta noted that Scalise was the second member of Congress to have been shot in the last six years (the other being Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords in 2011) and decried the political rhetoric in the country.
"It's not easy because you're away from home, you're out in the public, and even when you're home you're not home," Barletta said of being a congressperson. "You're traveling around trying to listen to people's concerns and come here to work and you're a very easy target for anyone. We don't have any kind of security and the rhetoric in this country is very, very troublesome to me. When you see Hollywood personalities holding the head of a President as if it was cut off and there are Broadway plays showing the stabbing of our President and just the rhetoric and the hatred, very, very, very discouraging and troubling to me."
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