WASHINGTON — Congressional Democrats debate whether or not to ban lawmakers from carrying firearms on the Capitol grounds, with House leaders urging the complex senators in the party to oppose the move.
House Democrats have been pushing for the ban since the violent storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021 by a mob of supporters of former President Donald J. Trump, and the idea has gained momentum in the room amid extreme behavior from some Republicans, including the dissemination of images depicting attacks on democrats.
This week, a gun charge against North Carolina Republican Republican Madison Cawthorn — the second such charge for the first-term legislature — made the issue more pressing. But in private discussions about the prospect of such a policy, House Democrats have blamed their fellow Democrats in the Senate for standing in the way of a Capitol gun ban.
Lawmakers are already prohibited from carrying guns on the floor of the House or Senate or in other select chambers, but they are allowed to carry them to and in their offices. A Republican from Colorado, Representative Ken Buck, likes to show off the AR-15 rifle he keeps in his Capitol Hill office.
In a private meeting Wednesday with the House committee chairmen, Mr. Cawthorn, and Representative Steny H. Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat, expressed frustration at the situation and said the Senate would not consider the gun issue, according to a person familiar with the discussion, describing it on condition of anonymity. Mr Hoyer accused the Senate sergeant, the chamber’s top security officer, of blocking a change to existing rules that would need to be approved by the Capitol Police Board, which regulates security around the complex, the person said.
Mr. Cawthorn, 26, was briefly detained by police on Tuesday after attempting to bring a loaded weapon through airport security in Charlotte, NC, in his carry-on bag after a security guard saw the image of the firearm on an X-ray machine. , the second time in just over a year he’s stopped flying a firearm.
Mr. Hoyer told his fellow top Democrats on Wednesday that William J. Walker, the House sergeant-at-arm, had planned to issue a letter calling for the Capitol complex to be cleared of weapons, but that he did not have permission. of the Senate, said the person familiar with Mr Hoyer’s comments.
In a letter sent to Mr. Walker on Wednesday, Mr. Hoyer called Mr. Cawthorn’s behavior “disturbing” and called for a “clear and unambiguous policy regarding gun safety in the Capitol complex and grounds.”
He cited the confusion of some members who believe they can carry their weapons in committee rooms during hearings or while working on legislation.
Spokespersons for Senator Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat and Majority Leader, and Karen Gibson, the Senate sergeant-at-arm, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
To date, Democrats in the Senate — which count several ardent gun rights advocates in their ranks — have not expressed the same concerns as members of the House of Representatives about lawmakers bringing guns to the ground. There are no metal detectors placed at the entrances to the room.
By contrast, after the January 6 attack, House officials imposed a rule requiring all members to pass through magnetometers to enter the room, where weapons are prohibited.
At least eight members of Congress have been fined for violating the rule — which includes a $5,000 fine, followed by $10,000 for subsequent violations — although most of their cases have been dismissed on appeal.
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Members of Congress are also prohibited from carrying firearms in certain rooms of the complex, including lobbies near the guest rooms, cloakrooms, the Marble Chamber of the Senate and the Rayburn Chamber of the House.
Washington has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and while a 1967 law prohibits most people from carrying guns on Capitol Hill, members of Congress were given an exception.
Capitol Police Board regulations allow lawmakers to keep firearms in their offices and transport them, unloaded and secured, to and from their offices. Members of Congress are also often allowed to bypass metal detectors entering buildings.
House Democrats have been pushing for months for the board of directors — which includes the sergeants of the two chambers and the Capitol architect — to change the ordinance.
“Current policies have no purpose other than endangering employees, staff, press, visitors and members of the Capitol complex,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said she has long been a supporter of changing policies. the rules for making the Capitol complex. gun free.
Republicans have opposed such a change. Days before the riots in the Capitol, 83 House Republicans wrote a letter to California Republican and minority leader Ms. Pelosi and Representative Kevin McCarthy, urging a broader ban on carrying firearms on the Capitol grounds.
“If members are unable to travel on the Capitol grounds, they will not be able to protect themselves in DC while making their way to and from their offices to perform their official duties,” the letter, which was signed by Mr. Cawthorn and signed by Mr. Cawthorn, said in a statement. representative. Lauren Boebert, Republican from Colorado, who made a fundraising video in which she allegedly walked the streets around the Capitol with a gun holstered under her blazer†
mr. Cawthorn has said he had his gun with him during the Jan. 6 riot.