A call for thoughtful dialogue

The human capacity to devise new ways to disrupt, terrorize, injure and kill appears limitless. And so it was on June 14 that James T. Hodgkinson, armed with a semiautomatic rifle, turned the congressional Republican team’s practice for the next day’s baseball game for charity into a bloodbath.

Hodgkinson, who was shot and killed by police, seems to have been motivated by hatred of President Donald Trump and the GOP. So he took it out on a group of congressional personnel on a communal baseball diamond. Our prayers go out for those who were injured.

It is obvious that no amount of political disagreement justifies what Hodkinson did. Indeed, there is a bitter irony to the fact that his attack disrupted practice for a game — a harmless diversion for members of a Congress who desperately need opportunities to spend time together in fellowship and healthy competition, and away from the partisan bickering of their day jobs.

In an interview after the shooting, Rep. Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat who is Jewish, said his fellow Democratic teammates were in shock when they heard about the carnage at the Republican practice field in Alexandria, Va.. Their reaction was to join together in prayer. As we have seen too many times, tragedy brings us together — and often brings out the best in us.

It is often said that in today’s frantic world of 24-7 connectivity and the demands of perpetual fundraising, members of Congress have very little time to meet informally, to get to know one another and to develop connections that transcend party differences and ideology. The annual congressional baseball game presents precisely such an opportunity.

But beyond the need for such social interactions, Congress also needs more civil discourse. And in response to the trauma of last week’s shooting, a good place to start would be around the issue of gun control — an issue that evokes strong reactions and sentiment on both sides of the debate. While each side has legitimate arguments, even the most aggressive advocates for gun control recognize that cracking down on firearms will not stop senseless violence and killings. Indeed, according to reports, last week’s gunman legally purchased the weapons he used.

So, perhaps it’s time for those who care about the issue to rethink how we frame it, and to try to reach some consensus about a more creative approach to one of the most vexing and divisive debates we face as a nation.

The gun debate is not “us” versus “them.” We are all in this one together. And our society’s safety and security depends upon the development of a comprehensive approach to firearms and the Second Amendment issues that respects rights and preserves safety. We can’t let a crazy man with a rifle frame the issues. We need to do that hard work ourselves, and soon.

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