In the wake of last week’s assassination attempt on Republicans in Virginia by a militant Democrat – who critically shot House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise – members of Congress in Washington, D.C., are debating the adoption of new security measures – with many pressing to carry concealed firearms to work.
Extended gun rights are being pushed by Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas), whose chief of staff Connie Hair told WND that he supports a reciprocity proposal – as does Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) – which would allow Congress members who have permits to carry a concealed weapon in their home state to bring with their gun with them while working in D.C.
New measures for different times
The heightened precautions are being taken so that attacks, such as the one waged last week by James Hodgkinson – who was found post-mortem with a hit list of at least half a dozen Republicans – will not take place in the nation’s capital again.
“Guns are banned from the Capitol complex, and the District of Columbia has strict gun laws, but that could change in the aftermath of the shooting spree Wednesday by a Bernie Sanders supporter in which House Majority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise, a congressional aide, a lobbyist and two Capitol Hill Police officers were wounded,” WND reported.
Along with the reciprocity proposal, Loudermilk would like to see Congress add security detail, noting that many lives were saved because a permanent security detail was assigned to watch over Scalise due to the fact that he is a member of the House Republican leadership.
“If Scalise hadn’t been on our team, it would have been really bad,” Loudermilk insisted, according to the Washington Examiner. “We aren’t any more special than anybody else, but we’re targets. This is exactly why there’s a lot of fear of doing town halls at this point.”
He went on to note that if the gunman “wouldn’t have gotten too far” if he waged his attack in Georgia.
“I had a staff member who was in his car, maybe 20 yards behind the shooter … who back in Georgia carries a nine millimeter in his car,” the Republican representative continued. “I carry a weapon. He had a clear shot at him. But here, we’re not allowed to carry any weapons here. … Most of us are here in D.C., so how are you supposed to have it here?”
Right to protect oneself in D.C.
Rep. Thomas Massie indicated on Thursday that he is introducing legislation in the District of Columbia that would recognize concealed carry permits that were issued out-of-state.
“Those of us in Congress that don’t have police details – we are safer in our home districts where many of us do carry concealed weapons,” Massie told the Washington Times told the Washington Times. “We just want to be able to extend those privileges to those who come here to visit us in Washington, D.C., and also for us to be able to exercise our rights, as well as their rights.”
This response triggered opposition from gun control advocate Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton – D.C.’s non-voting representative – who accused Massie of taking advantage of Wednesday’s shooting and abusing Congress’s authority over the District.
“[Massie is] going after gun safety laws that protect D.C. residents,” Norton insisted, according to the Times.
But Massie was quick to point out the United States Constitution makes it clear that Congress has authority over the region of the nation’s capital.
“The delegate from D.C. may seek to prevent her constituents from exercising their right to self-defense, but she lacks constitutional authority to deny that right to all those who visit the nation’s capital,” Massie disclosed to the Times.
It was also pointed out by Massie that all he is trying to do is ensure that any future shooting attempt can be deterred.
“What I’m trying to do is anticipate how to avoid a tragic situation in the future,” Massie told the Fox Business Network in an interview. “As soon as we step into Washington, D.C. – or anywhere in the public – we are unarmed and unaccompanied … for the most part.”
All D.C. on edge
The day after the shooting, congressional hearings received tighter security, while scheduled staff softball games were under consideration of cancellation by D.C. officials.
“Everybody here is on edge,” one Senate aide shared with the Examiner. “The police are on more edge, everybody’s shook up.”
Viewing the attack as a wake-up call, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) declared on Thursday that he will be packing heat every time he shows up at work from that day forward.
“You look at the vulnerability … I can assure you, from this day forward, I have a carry permit,” Collins assured local ABC affiliate WKBW in Buffalo, N.Y. , according to The Hill. “I will be carrying when I’m out and about.”
Even Democrats acknowledge that more security is needed to thwart future shootings.
The third-ranking House Democrat, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), commented that legislators should make greater security measures more readily available.
“For us to have a rule … that you can’t have security cameras in your offices unless you pay for them with your campaign – I just found that out this morning – or you can’t have security stuff in your homes?” Clyburn mused, according to The Hill. “I can’t tell you how many threats I’ve had against my home. In fact, I’ve had state police staying at home with my family.”
Agreeing with Clyburn, colleague Rep. Tony Cardenas (D.-Calif.) noted that he expressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) that new legislation pushing for increased security measures should be put on “hyper drive” after the incident.
“Many of us receive threats, and it’s not that we get used to it,” Cardenas asserted. “You’ve just got to hope and pray that people don’t follow up on those threats, but at any given moment they could – like we saw this morning.”
The manager of the Republican baseball team at the shooting, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), remarked that there are inherent dangers with his line of work.
“[Members of Congress must] assume a certain risk,” Barton conceded, according to WND. “It’s sad. We shouldn’t be targeted personally. I hope this was not a targeted attack, but we live in a democracy, and there are a lot of bad, bad folks out there.”