WASHINGTON ― A shooting in Virginia involving several Republican lawmakers left five people injured and brought Congress to a standstill Wednesday, with the House of Representatives canceling a number of hearings, including one scheduled to consider a package of pro-gun legislation.
Among the lawmakers who were present at the scene of the shooting, an Alexandria baseball field, was Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), who introduced the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act that was scheduled to go under review by the House Committee on Natural Resources on Wednesday morning. The hearing, like several others in the House, has been canceled “until further notice.”
The SHARE Act largely deals with natural resources and conservation, but it also includes several provisions that would loosen gun restrictions.
Among them is a section on “Hearing Protection,” which mimics legislation that Duncan introduced separately earlier this year. The measure would remove gun silencers, also called suppressors, from their classification under the National Firearms Act, where they have been listed since 1934 alongside weaponry like machine guns and sawed-off shotguns.
Under existing restrictions, anyone purchasing a silencer must first pay a $200 transfer fee, submit to fingerprinting and pass a federal background check, a process that can take up to nine months. The Hearing Protection Act would make buying a silencer as easy as buying a standard handgun.
There is no indication that the gunman in Wednesday’s shooting used a firearm equipped with a silencer. Such crimes are extremely rare.
Supporters of deregulating silencers say the move is necessary to protect the hearing of hunters and sport shooters, who are regularly exposed to loud gunfire. But opponents are concerned that it would give the public, including potentially dangerous individuals, access to accessories that make gunshots harder to detect. They’ve also called the legislation a handout to the gun industry, which would likely see massive profits from increased sales.
The director of federal affairs for the National Rifle Association and a top official with Bass Pro Shops were among those expected to testify at Wednesday’s hearing.
Many unrelated news conferences and hearings were canceled on Capitol Hill following the shooting, including a Senate appropriations committee hearing on oversight of the U.S. Capitol Police budget. Capitol Hill police officers who were present at the event had responded and engaged the shooting suspect in gunfire.
The office of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who suffered a gunshot wound that was reported to be non-life-threatening, announced that scheduled votes on legislation were also canceled due to the shooting.
Democrats, meanwhile, postponed a press conference that was meant to announce a lawsuit that nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers filed on Wednesday against President Donald Trump in order to compel him to comply with the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. The provision bars those who hold public office from profiting from business dealings with foreign governments.
The White House also canceled a scheduled event at the Department of Labor where Trump was to deliver remarks on his workforce initiative.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Rep. Bob Bishop (R-Utah) was present at the scene of Wednesday’s shooting. Bishop was not present.