Wednesday, 12 Dec 2018

House Democrats seek to remove a little-known rule allowing firearms in the Capitol

The House Democrats are seeking to revisit a little-known five-decade-old rule of Capitol Hill, which allows members of Congress to keep firearms in their offices and transport them to Capitol Hill.

Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Who urged the Capitol Hill authorities to review the 1967 settlement for months, took the lead in this initiative. He now has the support of Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Was appointed by her party as Speaker of the House early next year.

"I do not think we can continue to look on the other side or fix this problem under the rug," said Huffman in an interview, citing potential threats to public and national safety resulting a lost or stolen weapon – or an overheated legislator. "Our political climate is too unstable and there are too many warning signs that we need to tackle issues like this."

It is not known how common it is for lawmakers to keep guns in their offices. Several Republican MPs said this week that they knew colleagues who were guarding guns in the Capitol complex but did not know how widespread the practice was. Bringing firearms legally to Capitol Hill involves adherence to strict firearms laws, including a registration requirement.

Huffman said he heard rumors that colleagues would keep guns and carry them on campus, but had no first-hand knowledge of any particular case. The Sergeant for Arms at Arms, he said, informed him at an information meeting that the Capitol authorities were not keeping records and not locating the information. civilians may be in possession of firearms on the ground.

However, any attempt to reduce legislators' ability to keep guns could become a partisan hotspot between the new majority in the Democratic House – which will likely pursue new gun control measures – and favorable conservative Republicans firearms rights.

A spokesman for Pelosi said that if she were elected president, she would ask the authorities to "review" the regulation "in the name of the guarantee of safety and security".

Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Chairman of the House's second amendment committee, said any changes to existing rules would be "theatrical" rather than public safety and that it would be hypocritical for Pelosi or Other leaders in the House have security details that reduce the ability of grassroots members to protect themselves.

"He proposes to solve a problem that does not exist," he said. "She's concerned that members are not responsible enough to handle a gun?"

The settlement is in the hands of the Capitol Police Board, a four-member body comprised of Sergeants-at-Arms of the House and Senate, the Capitol Architect, and the Chief of the US Police.

A spokesman for the room sergeant, Paul D. Irving, chairman of the board, declined to comment, citing a policy of not commenting on security issues.

The laws governing firearms at Capitol Hill date back to October 1967, several months after racial riots tore apart many American cities. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed for the first time a federal law specifically prohibiting guns on the Capitol site, while giving power to the Capitol Police Board to make exceptions.

The commission established these exceptions in a regulation published a few days after the law came into force, stating that "nothing. . . prohibits any member of Congress from keeping firearms in the premises of his office or any member of Congress or any employee or agent of any member of Congress from carrying firearms in the Capitol Grounds, unloaded and carefully packaged. "

Firearms remain totally prohibited in the legislative chambers themselves and in adjacent areas, with the exception of the two Sergeants-at-Arms.

For the general public, the law is clear: no firearms on Capitol grounds, even if they are properly registered with the California authorities and if their owner holds a legitimate concealed license. Capitol police regularly arrest and lay charges against people who, usually by mistake, are trying to bring weapons into congressional buildings.

But Huffman said he is concerned that any loophole for lawmakers opens the door for malicious people to access legally held weapons in the Capitol. He mentioned the fact that Steve Scalise (R-La.) And the other congressional Republicans were killed last year by political gunfire from the parliamentary majority, as well as by the more recent homemade bombs sent to prominent Democrats, as a reason to act.

"I'm even hesitant to format some of the scenarios that worry me the most, because the truth is that the House is a place where we sometimes have all the most powerful government officials in the country meeting in one place." , he said.

In addition to the acts of a foreigner who had access to the weapon of a legislator, he also spoke of the possibility of violence perpetrated by a member.

The Capitol has been the scene of notorious acts of violence between lawmakers, including the 1856 assault on abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner (Mass.) By the proslave representative Preston Brooks (S.C.). After seeming to insult a member of the slave family in a speech, Brooks attacked him and seriously wounded him with a cane on the floor of the Senate.

On May 10, Huffman wrote to Irving asking "if members of Congress had been exempted from the firearms ban" for Capitol Hill and if procedures were in place to prevent them from carrying firearms illegally on the campus.

In a follow-up letter on June 25, he recounted a meeting with Irving and his staff: "I was encouraged to learn that you shared many of my concerns about the risks and vulnerabilities related to fire in the Capitol, "wrote Huffman, calling the 1967 regulation." Totally inapplicable "and" an honor system ".

"The current regulations would literally allow a member to place a loaded pistol in a desk drawer, in a filing cabinet or in a seated position, or to place a loaded AR15 in an unlocked cabinet," he wrote. "It's not hard to imagine that unsecured firearms end up in the wrong hands and that the tragedy results."

Huffman asked Irving and the police commission to ask members to sign an acknowledgment of the gun ban rule and inform the new members of the law. He also proposed that the authorities implement a "discreet and random metal detector scan" of two members of the House at each legislative session. Legislators are generally allowed to ignore Capitol security checkpoints.

Huffman wrote again on October 25 to "reiterate my concerns" and ask Irving again to inform the new members of the Firearms Regulations and "tighten up" so that the Capitol Police can identify members or personnel carrying or storing firearms.

Irving did not reply in writing to the letters, said a Huffman spokeswoman, but a deputy sergeant informed his office orally that some steps have been taken to inform the new members of the Firearms Act Capitol Hill, including asking them to sign a written document. recognition of the rule.

The MP has made no mention of updating the 1967 regulations or carrying out random security checks, the spokeswoman said.


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