Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who is recovering from being shot in the hip by a gunman during a congressional baseball practice in June, said Tuesday that the massacre in Las Vegas has “fortified” his stance on gun rights.
In an interview with Fox News that aired Tuesday evening, Scalise dismissed calls for gun reform as “wrong” and said Americans should be focused on praying for the victims rather that pushing their political beliefs.
“First of all, you’ve got to recognize that when there’s a tragedy like this, the first thing we should be thinking about is praying for the people who were injured and doing whatever we can to help them, to help law enforcement,” he said, echoing other politicians. “We shouldn’t first be thinking of promoting our political agenda. I think we see too much of that, where people say, ‘Oh ok, now you have to have gun control.’”
Late Sunday evening, a gunman from his 32-floor hotel room opened fire into a crowd of concertgoers during the Route 91 Harvest Festival, killing at least 58 people and wounding more than 500. When police entered his room, they found Stephen Paddock dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, along with an arsenal of 23 firearms.
In the wake of the attack — the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history — Democrats have renewed calls for tighter gun laws, while the White House and several Republicans have largely avoided discussing the larger issue of gun violence. “There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Monday,
Scalise told Fox News that efforts to reform gun laws — which proposals he didn’t say — “wouldn’t have done anything to stop” the Vegas mass shooting.
“The gunman actually cleared background checks,” he said. “To promote some kind of gun control, I think, is the wrong way to approach this.”
Scalise said he and others Republican lawmakers were lucky to have armed Capitol police on scene when a gunman targeted them during a baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, over the summer. Scalise said Americans “passionate” about the 2nd Amendment “use guns every single day to protect themselves against criminals, and those stories never get told — or hardly ever get told.”
“That’s a different side of the story that I think is important: that people use guns way more to defend themselves from criminals than criminals using guns to hurt people,” he said.
Scalise added that addressing the problem of mental illness would likely go further toward stopping such deadly attacks.
Asked by Fox News anchor Martha MacCallum if he’s “as strong on the 2nd Amendment as ever,” Scalise said, “Absolutely.”
Watch Scalise’s full interview with Fox News below:
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.