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Rep. Barbara Lee on Shootings: We Must Reduce the Hate in This Country

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House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana remains in critical condition this morning, after he and four other people were wounded Wednesday when a gunman opened fire at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia. The lawmakers were practicing for tonight’s charity congressional baseball game when Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, was shot in the hip. The gunman, who was shot dead by Capitol Hill police, has been identified as a 66-year-old white man named James Hodgkinson from Belleville, Illinois. He has a history of being arrested for domestic violence and has also made violent threats online. In one recent Facebook post, he wrote, "Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co." Hodgkinson received a license to have a gun earlier this year despite being arrested in 2006 for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm. For more on the Virginia shooting–as well as Wednesday’s shooting deaths of three UPS workers in San Francisco–we speak with Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We spend the rest of the hour with Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee. She’s the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force. She’s also the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

AMY GOODMAN: There is a lot we want to talk about, but we’re going to begin with Wednesday’s twin shootings. In Alexandria, Virginia, a gunman opening fire at a baseball field, shooting House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and four others—Congressmember Scalise is in critical condition. The gunman was shot dead by two Capitol Hill police. He’s been identified as a 66-year-old white man named James Tommy Hodgkinson from Belleville, Illinois. He has a history of being arrested for domestic violence. He’s also made violent threats online. In one recent Facebook post, he wrote, "Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co." Then, in San Francisco, just outside of Congressmember Barbara Lee’s district, a UPS employee shot dead three of his colleagues before killing himself. Our guest is Barbara Lee of the Bay Area, a Democrat of California, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Peace and Security Task Force.

What happened in your area, in San Francisco, hardly got any attention, the deaths of the three UPS workers, as well as the gunman, because it was overshadowed by the shooting that took place of your colleagues, the congressional baseball practice. Can you talk about what’s been taking place in this last 24 hours, Congressmember Lee?

REP. BARBARA LEE: Sure, Amy. First of all, it’s a very sad moment, not only for us in Washington, D.C., but for the Bay Area, for my district, for San Francisco. Death, violence—you know, this is a very somber moment. And my prayers and thoughts go out to the victims and families of those here in Washington, D.C., and in the Bay Area.

And, you know, we just have to look at the investigations, where they lead, what they reveal, but, you know, we have to make sure that each of us do our part to ensure that the environment in which we live is not hostile, is not toxic and does not lead to allowing people who do such heinous acts to commit these crimes. It’s so sick, really, and it’s very sad. It’s tragic. And at this moment, I think, basically, what most of us are doing are trying to help reduce the tensions and to continue to reflect upon what happened and to pray for those who have suffered so much.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Congresswoman Lee, what was your response when you heard that he’s one of the people who’s very critical of Trump, signing a petition against him and writing in a Facebook comment that "It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co."?

REP. BARBARA LEE: Well, I condemn violence and those kinds of behaviors and actions by anyone. That is outrageous. It’s terrible. It’s hateful. It led to this. It led to the serious critical injuries of my colleague and police officers, Capitol police, staff and others. And so, these kind of behaviors and thought that lead to this kind of violence is very dangerous. And it’s up to all of us to make sure that we talk about how wrong this is and how dangerous it is and how we must really speak about violence and help reduce the hate in this country, because there is quite a bit of hate right now. And this is an example of his comments and whatever the authorities are learning about him. Really, it’s tragic. And again, right now, though, our thoughts and prayers are with those who, you know, have been hurt and affected by, or killed—the families of those in the Bay Area who have been so tragically killed.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to go to one of the people who’s come out saying that liberals—so-called liberal politicians and others are responsible for shootings like this one. This is Fox News co-host Eric Bolling speaking shortly after the shooting.

ERIC BOLLING: There’s been a sea change recently in the words liberal politicians and celebrities are willing to use. Democrat politicians have been playing fast and loose with the way they disagree with the right on the GOP healthcare proposed law just alone. Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey, said this will, quote, "mean death, pain and suffering." Terry McAuliffe, the Democrat governor of Virginia, said people are going to die. Yep, Virginia. Let’s call it the home field for today’s shooting. ... Snoop Dogg’s gun, Kathy Griffin’s head, Shakespeare’s bloody rampage—it goes on and on. How many innocent people have to die before we realize that words do matter? Crazy people act on the crazy things they hear from politicians and celebrities. Think before you utter those blind, hateful words next time, liberals.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: So that’s Fox News co-host Eric Bolling speaking shortly after the shooting Wednesday. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, your response?

REP. BARBARA LEE: Amy, I’m not going to respond to that. You know, that is just outrageous. He’s politicizing it. And at this moment, you know, I think those that politicize what has taken place need to stop it, quite frankly, and really reflect and pray for the people that—you know, who are really very critically ill and for the families and victims of those who were killed. So he should just stop it. I’m not going to respond to it. We have plenty of time to talk about that. But right now is not the moment to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me go to Virginia Governor McAuliffe, who came to the scene, you know, who spoke after the Alexandria shooting and talked about how there are too many guns on the street.

GOV. TERRY McAULIFFE: Let me say this: I think we need to do more to protect all of our citizens. I have long advocated—this is not what today is about, but there are too many guns on the street. ... Background checks, shutting down gun show loopholes. You know, that’s not for today’s discussion, but it’s not just about politicians. We worry about this every day for all of our citizens.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Governor McAuliffe. The national spokesperson for the NRA, the National Rifle Association, criticized Governor McAuliffe’s comments. This is NRA’s Dana Loesch speaking on Fox News.

DANA LOESCH: I think that the governor’s assertion of this is inaccurate, greatly so. And he also mentions loopholes, which is a fabricated term that people use when they don’t want to describe criminal acts. ... The gun show loophole, Stuart, is a made-up term. If you drive with a suspended license, is that a loophole, or is that a criminal act? It’s a criminal act. There is no such thing as a loophole. Private sales are very heavily regulated by the federal government, and there are a number of laws that govern those. And first and foremost, private sales are only for hobbyists or historical artifacts. You cannot be a storefront and be engaged—and be engaging in an interstate sale without having to run a background check. So he’s horribly misinformed.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the NRA spokesperson. Congressmember Barbara Lee, your response?

REP. BARBARA LEE: Listen, many of us have long been advocates for gun safety measures. So I agree with Governor McAuliffe. But, once again, this is not the time, as I said earlier, to get into our policy debates. We have to take the time to really try to bring the country together. We have our debates about gun safety and gun control, and we will continue to do that, because we know there are too many guns out there on the street, and we need background checks. We need all of the commonsense gun safety measures that we’ve talked about for decades. And so, it’s not the time, though, I don’t believe, for the NRA or for any of us who have been fighting these battles for so many years to really talk about it. We need to try to figure out some common ground, so our children can see that at least during moments of crises the Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and progressives, are trying to bring the country together, so that we can continue with our democracy and fight for the values and the policies we believe are correct for the country.

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