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House Democrats want to stop lawmakers from carrying guns in Capitol

KERRY PICKET - Washington Examiner | Published on 2/3/2021

House members and staff wouldn't be able to carry guns on the sprawling Capitol grounds under legislation introduced Thursday by a pair of Democratic lawmakers.

This is the second straight Congress that California Reps. Jared Huffman and Jackie Speier have sought to roll back a regulation on the books for more than a half-century, which exempts members of Congress from the firearm rules that apply to everyone else, other than law enforcement, who visits or works at the U.S. Capitol.

Presently, only members of Congress and law enforcement can carry concealed firearms on Capitol grounds, but members cannot carry their firearms in legislative chambers and adjacent areas, not including the sergeants-at-arms.

The measure, No Congressional Gun Loophole Act, is likely to receive more attention than earlier efforts in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol siege that left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

Since 2017, Washington, D.C., has given concealed carry permits to residents and non-residents on a “shall-issue” basis. That means congressional lawmakers can register their concealed firearms with the district, after taking the required coursework and tests, and carry those pistols into the Capitol.

However, Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris is under investigation by Capitol Police for attempting to bring his concealed carry pistol onto the floor of the House. Harris was stopped by Capitol law enforcement after he set off the metal detectors. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi referenced the incident Thursday at a news conference. Lawmakers such as Harris are bringing guns onto the floor and represent an "enemy within" the Capitol, Pelosi said.

“I’ve been pushing for years to change this outdated rule, knowing there was an inevitable risk in allowing Members to carry guns in the Capitol,” said Huffman in a statement. “While we’d like to think we could rely on common decency, we now have colleagues who are QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers, incite violence and insurrection, and have even bragged about bringing guns into the House Chamber.”

In 2018, when Huffman first learned about the provision that allows lawmakers to keep firearms in their offices as well as carry around the Capitol complex, he attempted and failed to repeal the regulation.

Democratic lawmakers called for the rolling back of the regulation again this Congress, which prompted a letter from 82 lawmakers, spearheaded by Second Amendment Caucus Chairman Thomas Massie and Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, to Pelosi, demanding her to reject the effort.

The firearm laws on Capitol Hill go back to October 1967, following the race riots that happened throughout the country.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a federal law prohibiting weapons on the Capitol grounds for the first time. However, he enabled the Capitol Police Board to make exceptions to which the board mandated through a regulation immediately after the legislation passed.

The provision reads: “Nothing ... shall prohibit any Member of Congress from maintaining firearms within the confines of his office or any Member of Congress or any employee or agent of any Member of Congress from transporting within the Capitol Grounds firearms unloaded and securely wrapped.”