Bernie Sanders responds to Virginia shooting: 'We've got to stop the violence'

The Senator has offered his prayers to those injured

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The Independent US

Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders has issued a statement on the shooting at a Republican Congressional baseball team practise, offering his prayers and condemning the violence.

"Our prayers go out for a full recovery of Rep. Scalise, the congressional aides and police who were injured," Mr Sanders said in a tweet. "We’ve got to stop the violence."

The tweet came just as reports surfaced linking the gunman, identified as James T. Hodgkinson, to the Senator's campaign. 

The reports said Mr Hodgkinson, who died in police custody, appears to have been a Sanders supporter. An acquaintance told The Washington Post that the Illinois resident had volunteered on Mr Sanders' campaign.

A Facebook page bearing Mr Hodgkinson's name boasts a photo of Mr Sanders as the featured image. 

Mr Sanders quickly issued a follow-up statement in response to the reports.

"Let me be as clear as I can be. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms," the Senator said. 

Mr Hodgkinson allegedly opened fire on a routine Republican baseball practise in Alexandria, Virginia. Twenty-five Republican members of Congress and their aides were gathered on the field in advance of a bipartisan game the next day. 

Five people, including Majority Whip Steve Scalise and two Capitol Police officers, were shot. Two were transported to George Washington Hospital in critical condition. 

Law enforcement identified the shooter, who has since died, as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois. 

Witnesses, including Senator Rand Paul, said Mr Hodgkinson appeared to have wielded a semi-automatic weapon. 

Mr Sanders has faced criticism for his moderate views on gun control, especially during his 2016 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. The Independent Senator, who supports instant background checks and bans on semi-automatic weapons, has also voted five times against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.

"I want to see real, serious debate and action on guns, but it is not going to take place if we simply have extreme positions on both sides," the Senator said in an interview during his presidential campaign.

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