Moments after being shot two years ago, crawling away and his arms giving out, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) stopped and prayed to God. In that moment, he had no idea his prayers would be answered and he’d be back on the second base mound on the baseball field for the second year.
It’s been two years since tragedy struck Scalise and other Congress members’ lives when a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball game practice in 2017.
“I’ve always had a strong faith, and of course a lot of things can test your faith,” Scalise told IJR.
The shots fired left the Louisiana Republican inching toward the outfield, the opposite way of the gunfire, only for his arms to give out 20 feet later, causing him to start praying to God. He also discusses “the true miracles that happened on that ballfield” in his recently released book “Back in the Game.”
“I prayed some very lofty, heavy prayers, and what did He deliver,” Scalise said. “It surely gave me a lot of comfort once I started praying, knowing I put it in God’s hands. I prayed that He would take care of me and He did.”
Once the law enforcement officers, who Scalise calls heroes, took down the gunman, Scalise’s colleague Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) fixed him a tourniquet. It kept him alive while he was unconscious during the helicopter ride and until he got to the hospital.
“You wake up and you’re still fighting for your life,” Scalise said, listing out numerous surgeries, infections, and the uncertainty of if he would even make it before turning his thoughts to his family. “When you have something that tragic happen, it definitely focuses you on the things that really matter in life.”
With the support of prayers from both strangers and those close to him, Scalise says “recovery has gone incredibly well” as he’s relearned to walk and perform simple, everyday tasks, as well as mastering again how to field a grounder. The incident left Scalise with some damage in his left leg, as well as “probably permanent nerve damage” in his left foot.
“It’s a brutal thing to have to go through, but every day I could see myself getting better,” Scalise said.
In recovery, Scalise noted “the thing that still sticks with me the most” is the bond he formed with Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu, who reached out to him in the hospital and exchanged personal stories with him during their long calls.
“For him to say how much he was rooting for my recovery, and those are the things that are just so long lasting — to know that people like that are also thinking about you too. It shows you how much people love this country and care about us, care about this institution of Congress. That is so special.”
As Wednesday’s annual bipartisan Congressional Baseball Game approaches, the Republican lawmaker said going back out on the field is “incredibly emotional.” In the second year since the shooting, Scalise says, “This year’s going to be equally special because I know how lucky I am to be alive and two years later, still getting better.”
Recovering from the tragedy went nearly hand-in-hand with getting back to work for the American people, whose Second Amendment rights Scalise still stands strongly for, despite his experience with gun violence.
“First of all, those are deep-rooted beliefs,” reiterating his support for the right to bear arms, something he’s been questioned on several times since the shooting, adding:
“You know, in so many of these mass shootings, the shooter comes with the element of surprise and high arsenal weapons, but they are also entering, in many cases, gun-free zones where they know they’re the only person with a weapon. In a lot of other cases, if somebody was able to counter the shooter and take them down, that’s how you save lives. In fact, that’s what happened in my case.”
When asked how he reconciles his opposition to gun control with his staunch pro-life views, Scalise doubled down on his point that firearms can save lives:
“Every single day in America, people use guns to defend themselves against bad people, saving lives. Guns save lives so often, where somebody’s able to use a gun in self defense. The reason that the Second Amendment was put in place is our Founding Fathers believed strongly that you should be able to defend yourself.”
While he and his Democratic colleagues may disagree on those points, Scalise is looking forward to the baseball game, which he believes will unite members of Congress as they go from the floor to the field.
“The baseball game, it’s got such great tradition. It’s one of the bright spots of the relationships you build in Congress because I mean it’s Republicans and Democrats competing against each other,” he said. “But you build really good relationships with people on the other side.”
“It’s a good way for all of us to come together as Republicans and Democrats, and do something that’s different than the daily grind of fighting over issues and actually come together for something,” Scalise added.
This year’s baseball game, which is for charity, is expected to raise over $500,000 for local charities, including Boys and Girls Club of Greater Washington.