(Video of the shooting.)
WASHINGTON – They were "sitting ducks," said Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
"It would have been a massacre," Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., told CNN after gunman James T. Hodgkinson opened fire on Republican lawmakers at a baseball practice early Wednesday morning in Alexandria, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the nation's capital.
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"We had no defense at all," he said. "The field was basically a killing field."
"Nobody would have survived without the Capitol Hill police," added Paul.
A source told WND the only reason there was a Capitol Police security detail at the event was because House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., a member of the GOP leadership team, was at the event.
"Had they not been there, it would have been a massacre. As terrible as it is, it could have been a lot worse," said Paul.
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He added: "Had it not been for them, we would have been at the mercy of the shooter and he had a lot of ammo. All we would have had was baseball bats."
Scalise and at least three others were wounded, including the two Capitol Police officers. The shooter was killed.
MedStar Washington Hospital tweeted in the afternoon that Scalise's condition had been downgraded to critical, after he had been reported to be in stable condition all morning.
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"As we were standing here this morning, a gunman walked up to the fence line and just began to shoot," recalled Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Mich. "I was standing at home plate and he was in the third base line. He had a rifle that was clearly meant for the job of taking people out, multiple casualties, and he had several rounds and magazines that he kept unloading and reloading.
"The only reason why any of us walked out of this thing, by the grace of God, one of the folks here had a weapon to fire back and give us a moment to find cover," he said.
"We were inside the backstop and if we didn’t have that cover by a brave person who stood up and took a shot themselves, we would not have gotten out of there and every one of us would have been hit — every single one of us."
A congressional staffer told WND the gunman approached the field and asked Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.: "Are you Democrats or Republicans?"
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When he replied, "Republicans," the gunman walked away and then came back blasting.
Sen. Rand Paul describes shooting that injured Rep. Scalise:
"This political rhetoric and discourse that has led to hate has led to gunfire," Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., who was at bat when the gunfire began, told Fox News.
"I never thought I'd go to a baseball practice for charity and have to dodge bullets. This has got to stop and has got to stop today," he mournfully added.
Davis grimly noted, "There were children on the field with us and in the dugout."
"We've got the right to vote against them (political opponents) if we disagree with their policies but we've got to ratchet down the rhetoric we've seen, not only in social media, but in the media, in the 24-hour news cycle," he implored.
"These are the things that have to stop," Davis asserted.
He bluntly added, "This is a result, I believe, of political rhetorical terrorism."
"The political rhetoric has led to this violent type of activity that has got to stop in this country," Davis continued.
He added, "When you have rhetoric and stories about how policies are killing people, this could be a result of that."
Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., calls shooting result of political rhetorical terrorism:
Calling for unity to end the violence, he insisted, "This has got to be the message of Republicans like me and Democrats alike."
Davis was hopeful that unity will come out of the incident.
"We have to have unity in this country," he said. "We are the United States of America. We are great. And we have to come together and govern and that's exactly what I hope will come out of the violent activity I experienced today and many others did."
Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., said, "I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric."
"The rhetoric has been outrageous," he added. "The finger-pointing, the tone, the angst and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters, really then, some people react to things like that, people get angry as well, and you fuel the fires."
See video of Rep. Duncan's eyewitness account:
Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he was with DeSantis when the gunman approached and asked if they were Republicans or Democrats.
He said the shooting has changed the world for lawmakers.
Scalise, two Capitol police officers and at least two others are recovering from gunshot wounds after a gunman exchanged an estimated 50 shots with police in a gun battle that reportedly lasted 10 minutes. Scalise was shot in the hip and was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery.
Two Capitol Police officers apparently drew the gunman's fire until Alexandria police arrived to join the battle just a few minutes after it began.
Sen. Jeff Flake speaks about congressional baseball game shooting:
Flake told CNN he saw one of Scalise's security detail return fire on the gunman "for what felt like 10 minutes," even though that officer was wounded in the leg.
"Fifty (shots) would be an understatement, I'm quite sure," Flake said.
"I wanted to get to Steve Scalise, laying out there in the field, but while there were bullets flying overhead, I couldn't."
Flake said that after Scalise dragged himself away from the shooting, and once they were able, he and Rep. Brad Wenstrup, a physician who served as a medic in Iraq, went out to where the wounded lawmaker was lying to apply pressure to the wound.
Scalise was conscious the whole time, Flake said.
See video of a first-hand account of the shootings from the dugout by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.:
Alexandria police initially tweeted: "Suspect is in custody and not a threat."
Then President Trump announced shortly before noon that the shooter had died.
In a televised statement, Trump said the FBI is leading the investigation and that he and and all of America were praying for the victims.
He noted, all lawmakers "are here because they love our country."
And the president asked all Americans to "take a moment today to cherish those you love."
Gun control? How about Democrat zealot control? by Joseph Farah
The 'Resistance' goes live-fire, by Ann Coulter
Normalizing beheadings and violence, by James Zumwalt
Watch President Trump's televised statement:
The suspect campaigned for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the presidential election, according to the Washington Post.
The dead gunman is James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, according to law enforcement officials.
The Post reported the 66-year-old owned a home inspection business and was charged in April 2006 with battery and aiding damage to a motor vehicle, but the charges were dismissed. An acquaintance described him as a "quiet guy" who was "very mellow, very reserved."
"I am sickened by this despicable act," said Sanders. "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."
Witnesses say the there is no doubt the gunman targeted the lawmakers deliberately after first asking if they were Democrats or Republicans.
"It sure as heck wasn't an accident," said Rep. Mo Brook, R-Ala., who said the shooter fired at least 50 shots from a semi-automatic rifle.
"All the people on the field scattered," he added.
Brooks said he saw Scalise "dragging his body away from second base to get away from the shooter. He was shot in the hip. I think it was not a life-threatening wound. ... There was no exit wound I could see."
Brooks said there was a "blood trail about 10 to 15 yards long from where he was shot to wear he crawled to right field."
The president canceled all his public events scheduled for Wednesday.
"The vice president and I are aware of the shooting incident in Virginia and are monitoring developments closely," Trump said in a statement. "We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the members of Congress, their staffs, Capitol Police, first responders, and all others affected."
Virginia Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe responded to the tragedy by calling for gun control at a press conference, mistakenly saying twice, "we lose 93 million Americans everyday to gun violence, " before correcting himself and saying it was 93.
He then said there were too many guns on street.
Retorted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.,'We've got plenty of gun laws," adding, "I own a gun. I don't go around shooting people with it."
"If we had that debate it'd end like it always ends. We're not going to tell law-abiding people they can't own a gun because of some nut-job."
Video of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va. at press conference:
President Trump's full statement on the shootings:
As you all know, shortly after 7:00 a.m. this morning, a gunman opened fire on members of Congress and their staffs as they were practicing for tomorrow's annual charity baseball game.
Authorities are continuing to investigate the crime, and the assailant has now died from his injuries. The FBI is leading the investigation and will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.
Congressman Steve Scalise, a member of House leadership, was shot and badly wounded, and is now in stable condition at the hospital, along with two very courageous Capitol Police officers. At least two others were also wounded.
Many lives would have been lost if not for the heroic actions of the two Capitol Police officers who took down the gunman despite sustaining gunshot wounds during a very, very brutal assault.
Melania and I are grateful for their heroism and praying for the swift recovery of all victims.
Congressman Scalise is a friend, and a very good friend. He's a patriot and he's a fighter. He will recover from this assault. And, Steve, I want you to know that you have the prayers not only of the entire city behind you, but of an entire nation and, frankly, the entire world. America is praying for you and America is praying for all of the victims of this terrible shooting.
I spoke with Steve's wife, Jennifer, and I pledged to her our full and absolute support -- anything she needs. We are with her and with the entire Scalise family.
I have also spoken with Chief Matthew Verderosa -- he's doing a fantastic job -- of the Capitol Police to express our sympathies for his wounded officers and to express my admiration for their courage. Our brave Capitol Police perform a challenging job with incredible skill, and their sacrifice makes democracy possible.
We also commend the brave first responders from Alexandria Police, Fire and Rescue who rushed to the scene. Everyone on that field is a public servant -- our courageous police, our congressional aides who work so tirelessly behind the scenes with enormous devotion, and our dedicated members of Congress who represent our people.
We may have our differences, but we do well, in times like these, to remember that everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country.
We can all agree that we are blessed to be Americans, that our children deserve to grow up in a nation of safety and peace, and that we are strongest when we are unified and when we work together for the common good.
Please take a moment today to cherish those you love, and always remember those who serve and keep us safe. God bless them all, God bless you, and God Bless America.
See the video of House Speaker Ryan's remarks on the shootings:
There were at least 13 members of Congress present at the field.
Along with Rep. Mo Brooks and Sen. Rand Paul, some of the others on the field were Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and Reps. Mike Bishop, R-Mich.; Ron DeSantis, R-Fla.; Roger Williams, R-Texas; Mark Walker, R-N.C.; Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio; Rodney Davis; R-Ill., Mike Conaway, R-Texas; Joe Barton, R-Texas; Trent Kelly, R-Miss.; Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.; Jack Bergman, R-Mich.; and Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.
WND asked residents in the area and witnesses for their thoughts on the tragic shooting:
To really understand the war zone America is becoming, read the June issue of WND's acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine, "RAGE AND VIOLENCE: Why the Left has gone insane in the Age of Trump."