Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York, vowed Wednesday to start carrying a firearm “from this day forward” following the shooting at a GOP baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.
The early morning attack left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who was shot in the hip, in critical condition. He has had three surgeries and will require additional operations, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where Scalise is being treated, announced Wednesday evening.
“You look at the vulnerability. I can assure you, from this day forward — I have a carry permit — I will be carrying when I’m out and about,” Collins told WKBW, an ABC radio affiliate in Buffalo, New York. “On a rare occasion, I’d have my gun in the glove box or something, but it’s going to be in my pocket from this day forward.”
Collins was not at the Wednesday morning practice, where the shooting left Scalise as well as two Capitol Police officers, one lobbyist, and one congressional staffer injured.
The New York lawmaker doubled down on his pledge during an interview Thursday with Fox Business host Stuart Varney.
“I’ve had a carry permit for over 30 years, and depending on the situation, if I thought it was prudent for me to carry a concealed weapon, I have done that in the past,” he told Varney. “I might have it in my glove box, but I’m more attuned now more than ever to safety.”
However, federal law bars lawmakers from carrying a concealed weapon in Washington, D.C. But Collins is hoping to eliminate the restriction. In fact, he has sponsored legislation that would allow anyone who has a concealed carry permit in one state to carry in every state.
He told the Fox Business host that, because of the intense security focused in Washington, D.C., it is “extraordinarily safe” on Capitol Hill. It’s when he’s outside of D.C. — conducting town halls in his district and elsewhere — when Collins said he feels the need to protect himself, his staff, and his constituents with his own firearm.
The suspected gunman, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson, died on the scene from injuries he sustained in a shootout with the Capitol Police officers. Hodgkinson was a major supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I) campaign for president. Sanders condemned the assault Wednesday, saying he was “sickened by this despicable act.”
Collins blamed Democrats for sparking the anger aimed at the GOP and President Donald Trump.
“I can only hope that the Democrats do tone down the rhetoric,” Collins told Buffalo’s WBEN radio. “The rhetoric has been outrageous — the finger-pointing, just the tone, and the angst, and the anger directed at Donald Trump, his supporters.
“Really, then, you know, some people react to things like that,” he continued. “They get angry as well. And then you fuel the fires.”