Until recently, gun control advocates had not realized they had a powerful weapon in their arsenals: fearless, outspoken teens.
The past weekend’s March for Our Lives demonstrated that the gun control movement wields the sort of power Mothers Against Drunk Driving leveraged against the drinking age in the 1980s. Emotions compel reason. Teenagers demanding their peers be protected from school shootings could eventually persuade lawmakers to restrict Americans’ ability to own guns.
So I thought I would add my own teenage testimony.
I was still 19 on the day House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R‑Louisiana, was shot this past June. That day, I caught a green line train down toward Nats Park to see the Atlanta Braves trash the Washington Nationals, 13 – 2. When I arrived at my family’s box halfway through the seventh inning — some nice person had reserved the big one behind home plate — Atlanta was in the middle of a six run streak that would break Washington’s Nattitude for the day. And since neither Bryce Harper nor Ryan Zimmerman could get on base, we were out a team.
These things come as no surprise. After all, D.C. is no sports town. Among our four major league franchises, we boast a football team branded with a proudly racist American Indian, a magical basketball mascot picked through a Washington Post poll, and a soccer team which plays in a stadium named for Bobby Kennedy, whom you might know from his assassination.
The Nats alone seem to have escaped the ignominity that comes with Washington sports. And that’s probably just because they’re a nearby alternative to the Baltimore Orioles, whom most D.C. residents secretly love anyway.
But that’s just our Nattitude. Someone on the team’s public relations squad coined the term several years ago — they splashed it all over the stadium and Twitter — and I understand why. It’s the joy in Mudville. Because no one in the metro area consents to be loyal to a barely 10-year-old team, the best we can do is comfort ourselves by using its existence to tap into The Parable Of Baseball. When the Nats win, the stands erupt with cheers for the surprising notion that we (swamp dwellers!) are human too. When they lose, we shake our heads in uncomplaining shame: America’s pastime can’t thrive in America’s capital anyway.
We were shaking our heads that day. Steve Scalise had been shot.
“I hope to God he doesn’t die,” my brother said. “They would lock us in the stadium, just like that time Baltimore burned.”
He is, of course, referring to the Baltimore riots of 2015 when police officers killed 25-year-old Freddie Gray while transporting him to a police station. It was a race thing. My family attended a Baltimore Orioles game on Peak Riot night. Authorities locked us in Camden Yards until a SWAT team arrived to protect people leaving the game.
The Scalise shooting was of a different calibre. It was ideological. Earlier that morning on a Del Ray community baseball diamond, a lone gunman emptied several 9mm magazines in the direction of several Republican congressman practicing for the annual bipartisan Congressional Baseball Game. Scalise and three other people were wounded in the firefight. Local police arrived 10 minutes later and killed the gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old Bernie Bro from Illinois.
Scalise sustained a shot through the hip and managed to drag himself off of second base and out of the line of fire before an ambulance rushed him to the hospital. Doctors began surgery almost immediately. We were told he was doing well.
But after that first surgery, Scalise’s condition worsened. Twitter sent me a notification: SCALISE IN CRITICAL CONDITION. A video of the shooting, recorded by a Del Ray resident, began circulating on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX with Zapruder-like intensity. Scalise is hit. Scalise is falling. Scalise will die. Scalise must die. And by the time I was dizzying myself in bubbly orange juice at Nats park, it seemed like death was the only thing that would triumph on a day like this.
Of course we were all deluding ourselves. Scalise did not die, even if our worst fears willed it to be so. The mass anxieties of the ballpark — not helped by the jumbotron giving us live updates of the Congressman’s condition — are the same longings of any crowd: to make a change, no matter how vague or haphazard. Just anything but our current state. Anything but the now.
So when a univocal mass gathers in front of Capitol Hill shouting for change, I can only think of the day Steve Scalise was shot. What do we even want? Who is we? When we gather together in large crowds, discourse devolves into the pure and awful democracy of children.There’s no clarity, no room for deliberation here. Every one of these protests is a permutation of the one before.
Democrats try to kill Republicans. The police kill black people. And now high schoolers kill each other. Stop it all. This is sin.
Nic Rowan is a junior studying history.