Steve Scalise/ Wiki­media commons

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.