Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday were left pondering whether and how to increase their own security in the wake of a gunman's shocking attack against GOP lawmakers at a baseball practice, and it is already prompting some to start pushing for police protection at their homes and group events outside the Capitol.
"When you have a situation where you have 20, 30, 40 members of Congress in the same place, open to anybody just walking through, perhaps we should rethink that a little bit," Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa., said during a news conference at the end of a day that put all of Capitol Hill on edge.
Republicans and police officials credited the Capitol Police protective detail for saving the lives of dozens of lawmakers and congressional staffers who were on the field when James Hodgkinson opened fire with a high-powered rifle. Hodgkinson injured four people, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., but was downed by the police, who stopped his shooting spree.
Lawmakers said right after the shooting that if not for Scalise's security detail, which he gets because he's part of the leadership team, many more would have died as "sitting ducks" on the field.
Traditionally, the Capitol Police do not stand guard at events outside of the U.S. Capitol unless a member of the Republican or Democratic leadership is present.
The police were there only for Scalise, but ended up saving many more lives, lawmakers said.
"Thank God we had security people this morning who had guns," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, who was present during the shooting along with his 10-year-old son. "The fact that we had security people who could shoot back saved a lot of lives."
Lawmakers outside of the Republican and Democratic leadership typically receive no protective detail outside of the Capitol, and the event is raising questions about how to protect the rank-and-file.
House Speaker Paul Ryan discussed security concerns at a closed-door briefing with lawmakers in both parties Wednesday morning, but nothing definitive was decided about boosting police protection, according to lawmakers at the meeting.
"This is very early, so we'll see," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., told the Washington Examiner after the meeting.
Rep. Rob Walker, R-N.C., said lawmakers in the meeting discussed the need "to look into enhancing security" with Ryan, with the details of the day's events fresh in their minds.
"If Steve Scalise's detail hadn't been there, you would have had 25 members completely exposed with no protection whatsoever," Walker said.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said Ryan was talking about whether members can use congressional funds to boost security at their homes. The Sergeant at Arms, King said, was also examining whether to increase congressional protection for members.
Republicans had been practicing every day at the same time for Thursday's congressional baseball game at Nationals Park.
The GOP practices took place daily at 6:30 a.m. at the Eugene Simpson Stadium Park in Alexandria.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who stood along the first base line and the dugout when the shots were fired and helped treat the victims, said "It's too early to tell" whether security needs to change, but acknowledged that without Scalise's protective detail, "it would have been a very, very bad situation."
Even before Wednesday's shooting, Republicans had been increasingly concerned for their safety.
Protesters have shown up in great numbers at town hall meetings hosted by Republicans. Protests have also been staged at member offices and even at the homes of GOP lawmakers.
In May, an angry man tried to shove a wad of cash into the front pocket of U.S. Rep Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., at a town hall meeting about healthcare reform.
Others were recalling that in 2011, a man opened fire at a "Congress in Your Corner" event in Tucson, Ariz., hosted by then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., severely injuring her and killing six others.
Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Wednesday he is looking into whether the Capitol Police need additional funding to ensure "they are adequately equipped and trained and armed."
He said outside protection should also be considered for members who leave the Capitol campus. Cornyn is among the small group of leaders who are constantly trailed by police protection, on and off Capitol Hill.
"It just reminds us a handful of people in elected leadership have security on a routine basis," Cornyn said. "But once members leave the Hill, particularly if there are large gatherings like this annual baseball game and the practice that goes along with it, it's a vulnerability because if Capitol Police hadn't been there, I would hate to think how many more people would have been injured if not killed."