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Representative Steve King blames shooting on the ‘left’

A gunman opened fire Tuesday morning during a softball game being played by Republican lawmakers and staffers in Alexandria wounding at least five people including a top Republican lawmaker and at least one member of the security team.
A gunman opened fire Tuesday morning during a softball game being played by Republican lawmakers and staffers in Alexandria wounding at least five people including a top Republican lawmaker and at least one member of the security team.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Representative Steve King, an Iowa Republican, said Wednesday the political culture driven by the “left” created an environment where violence against elected leaders was possible.

“I don’t know anything about the perpetrator,” said King, referring to the gunman who fired at members of Congress during their baseball practice. “But I do know that America is divided. . . . And the violence is appearing in the streets. And it’s coming from the left.”

King spoke to reporters from a police perimeter near the field where the shooting took place, and explained that he drove there from Washington in order to pray for his wounded colleagues. Five people were wounded, including House majority whip Steve Scalise.

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King learned about the shooting while in a meeting in Washington on Wednesday morning with other members of the House Republican conference.

“Our discussion this morning was to be about the disappearance of the American center. And the polarization of our country that has taken place,” King said. “I regret what I’ve seen in this society. This bitterness. This acrimony. This division that’s taking place.”

He pointed to the many residents of Alexandria who protested President Trump as evidence of the divide.

“This city was filled up with demonstrations the day after the inauguration where you couldn’t drive down the streets,” King said. “And we’ve had demonstrations every week since then. It’s the same coalitions of people on that side who don’t accept the results of the election. We’ll see what this perpetrator has to say.”

Speaking of the gunman, King added: “If he were on the way to the morgue it wouldn’t make me sorry at all,” King said.

The gunman, who has been identified as James T. Hodgkinson III, 66, from Illinois, died after being shot by police.

Hodgkinson was a volunteer on Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign, according to The Washington Post.

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“I am sickened by this despicable act,’’ Sanders said on the Senate floor after learning the shooter was a former volunteer. “Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.’’


Annie Linskey can be reached at annie.linskey@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @annielinskey.