It was a terrifying morning, as unarmed Republican members and staff endured nearly 10 minutes of gunfire from a politically motivated shooter during a scheduled practice for Thursday's Congressional Baseball Game. What should have been a routine meeting to prepare for a charity event turned members of Congress into defenseless, sitting ducks.
While D.C. and the rest of the country reeled from news of the attack and awaited information about the victims, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe stepped up to the mic and turned the conversation to gun control.
McAuliffe: "This is not what today is about, but there are too many guns on the street. We lose 93 million Americans a day to gun violence. I have long talked about this, background checks, shutting down gun show loopholes, that's not for today's discussion … "
Though he initially said he wouldn't talk politics, he doubled down on the partisan rhetoric when asked by a reporter why he was talking about it if he said he wasn't going to talk about it. His answer? "I talk about it every day."
McAuliffe then used an exaggerated statistic to prop up his straw man argument: "We lose 93 million Americans a day to gun violence." In fact, he repeated the stat three times before a reporter had to correct him.
If 93 million Americans died every day, the whole U.S . population — 321 million — would be gone by Sunday.
There is a time and a place to discuss the Second Amendment and gun control, but hours after a tragedy, as we await news of injuries or fatalities, isn't your moment.
Further, what McAuliffe and others who agree with him don't realize is that they're wrong. While the staffers and lawmakers only had bats to protect themselves, it was the brave actions of law enforcement officers with guns that saved lives.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., who was on the scene, said it best when asked if his mind has changed concerning gun control: "Not with respect to the Second Amendment … These rights are there to protect Americans…"
For Gov. McAuliffe and others who may be tempted to politicize the attack, I have some basic communications advice: 1) recognize there is a time and place to peddle your agenda, and 2) don't proceed to talk about something you explicitly say you don't intend to talk about.
It's Comms 101, and it works.
Beverly Hallberg (@BevHallberg) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. She is president of District Media Group.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.