If you think the terrible sniper attack on the Republicans’ baseball practice near Washington was just another instance of an angry nut having easy access to guns, you haven’t been listening to Rep. Tom Garrett of Virginia.
He and some other GOP colleagues say last week’s shooting illustrates the need for more lenient firearms laws, not stricter ones.
If it weren’t for the District of Columbia’s tough firearms regulations, they say, Rep. Steve Scalise and the other civilian victims would have been able to bring guns to the Alexandria ball field and defend themselves.
Before dismissing Garrett’s alternative scenario as a wild NRA fantasy, let’s play out the possibilities.
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Scalise was shot in the hip and seriously injured while fielding grounders at second base. Anyone who follows the sport knows that position requires speed, agility and a wide range of motion.
It would be almost impossible to turn a double-play while carrying an AR-15, so let’s assume that in Garrett’s fertile imagination Scalise would have chosen a handgun.
Next question: Do you wear it in an ankle holster, shoulder holster or hip holster?
Because infielders often must move laterally and make quick stops, a Glock flopping on one’s hip would be cumbersome and possibly dangerous. Similarly, any pistol strapped to the ankle would be vulnerable to a sliding base runner, or the odd bounce of a ground ball.
For most ballplayers, the snug fit of a shoulder holster would probably work best, though it might feel restrictive when making a throw to the plate. Batting could also be problematic, as it’s difficult to hit a fastball without taking a full, unimpeded swing.
Laying down a bunt, however, would be relatively easy while wearing a shoulder holster.
So let’s say, under the Tom Garrett scenario, that all the players are now armed (perhaps the catcher can conceal a small .25-caliber in his cup). Practice begins. The pitchers are warming up. The outfielders are shagging fly balls. The infielders are scooping grounders.
And suddenly a deranged sniper shows up. Last week it happened to be James T. Hodgkinson, a seething 66-year-old Bernie Sanders supporter from southern Illinois. Police say he carried a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun, and started shooting through a chain-link fence.
Three people, including Scalise, were wounded in the initial burst of rifle fire. Others on the field dropped to the ground or ran for cover, hiding until police shot the gunman.
But following Garrett’s imaginary script, it would be the congressional ballplayers themselves whipping out their weapons, felling the shooter and quickly ending the attack. It’s a scene so farfetched that it belongs in a Hollywood action movie.
Real-life gunfights don’t unfold that way. They are scary, chaotic and sloppy. Bullets, even those fired by trained law enforcement officers, fly all over the place.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who was there when Hodgkinson started shooting, said, “You had no way to defend yourself.” Another congressman on the diamond noted: “All we had were baseball bats.”
Well, yes, that’s because it was baseball practice. Apparently we’re supposed to believe that they would, as a matter of habit, bring firearms to the park at 7 a.m. on a Wednesday, if it weren’t for those unfair concealed-carry laws in Washington.
Garrett and other NRA cheerleaders claim events could have turned out differently if Scalise had taken a gun with him. How would that have changed anything? The man was running around with a fielder’s mitt on one hand, and throwing baseballs with the other.
He was the target of a blind ambush, and it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d been standing on second base with a rocket launcher. He still would have been shot.
Let’s say Garrett didn’t really mean to suggest that Scalise and the other victims would carry their guns while practicing. Let’s say he meant they would keep their weapons close by — say, packed inside their sports bags in the dugout.
Once the sniper began shooting — we’re asked to imagine — at least one of the frightened players would have dashed through the fusillade to the dugout, snatched the handgun from his bag and fired across the ballfield, killing the bad guy holding the high-powered rifle.
And that unlikely hero would be who? Congressman Jason Bourne?