Why Isn’t Nancy Pelosi Stopping the Seditious 147 from Bringing Loaded Handguns to the House Floor?
In a tense moment during the immediate aftermath of the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, a fight nearly broke out on the House floor as Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania criticized his GOP colleagues for repeating “lies” about Joe Biden’s presidential election victory. The attack on the Capitol “didn’t materialize out of nowhere,” Lamb declared. Those who inspired the Capitol rioters with fabrications about Donald Trump winning the election “should be ashamed of themselves [and] their constituents should be ashamed of them.”
As he spoke, a scrum erupted to his right between Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland and Democratic Members Al Lawson of Florida and Colin Allred of Texas. “Sit down!” one of them yelled. “No, you sit down!” could be heard in response. At least a dozen Members rose from their benches to intervene and prevent a physical altercation.
The attack on the Capitol had already left five people dead and in this moment another tragedy might have been narrowly averted. Rep. Harris has been seen evading newly-installed metal detectors at the Capitol and was stopped trying to bring a concealed, loaded handgun to the House floor on January 21. Members of Congress are allowed to carry firearms “in the halls and on Capitol grounds, including the Capitol Building but not the Floor.” Additionally, ammo must be separately stored.
Evidence suggests Harris isn’t alone. Freshman House Republican Lauren Boebert of Colorado entered the 117th Congress by declaring she would violate gun rules at the Capitol (and in the District of Columbia more broadly). Another GOP freshman, alleged sex offender Madison Cawthorn, bragged about packing heat at the Capitol during the riot on January 6.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had metal detectors installed in the Capitol following the January 6 riot to ensure no one was violating the rules and bringing guns to the floor. On January 12, during a vote on the 25th Amendment, 11 Republicans set the detectors off and bypassed security on their way to the House floor: Boebert, Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve Stivers of Ohio, Van Taylor of Texas, Debbie Lesko of Arizona, Larry Bucshon of Indiana, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, Russ Fulcher of Idaho and Randy Weber of the Texas.
The following day was no different. HuffPo reporter Matt Fuller observed 12 Republicans bypassing Capitol Police on their way to the House floor for a critical vote on the impeachment of president Donald Trump: Duncan, Fulcher, Gohmert, Bob Gibbs of Ohio, Chip Roy of Texas, Bob Latta of Ohio, Garret Graves of Louisiana, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Paul Gosar of Arizona, Alex Mooney of West Virgina and Bill Huizenga of Michigan.
All the gun-toting Republican Members mentioned so far are part of the “Seditious 147,” a group of lawmakers who ignored the will of voters and opposed the certification of Joe Biden as 46th president of the United States. They are also part of a group of more than 80 Republicans lobbying Speaker Pelosi for more permissive rules concerning gun-carrying by Members on Capitol grounds.
In response to the violations of January 12 and 13, Speaker Pelosi announced she would call a vote to mandate fines for Members who bypass metal detectors and refuse to be wanded by Capitol officers — $5,000 for the first offense and $10,000 for the second. This seems an insignificant hurdle in a Congress in which a majority of Members are millionaires with seemingly unlimited access to outside cash. Pelosi is reportedly in favor of banning guns at the Capitol, but is passing the buck to law enforcement. She prefers any new regulation go through the Capitol Police Board, which includes the chief of the Capitol Police, the architect of the Capitol and sergeants-at-Arms in the House and Senate. It’s a curious choice given the immediate danger to Pelosi’s caucus and the total failure of Capitol Police leadership (as opposed to rank and file officers) on January 6.
On January 15, Democratic representative John Garamendi of California went on CNN and was explicit about the threat from his colleagues on the other side of the aisle. When asked point-blank, “Are you suggesting that one of your fellow Members of Congress might harm you?” Garamendi’s response was, “Of course. Why would you bring a gun onto the floor? … I am concerned that any Member that brings a gun into the Capitol…poses a danger to me and to the other Members of the Congress and the staff.”
Reports also emerged that Republicans (including Boebert) led an “extremely high number of outside [tour] groups” through the Capitol in the days immediately preceding the January 6 attack. Such tours have been prohibited by Capitol regulations since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. Rep. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey saw the tours and believes GOP Members took participants in the coup attempt on them for “reconnaissance.” Evidence now suggests the ultimate goal of the pro-Trump rioters was to capture and kill vice president Mike Pence and Democratic Members of Congress including Speaker Pelosi.
Predictably, when the House ended recess and resumed work on January 21, GOP Members continued to carry guns into the Capitol. HuffPo reporter Matt Fuller watched three Republicans set off metals detectors and walk straight through security to the House floor: Boebert, Biggs and Allen. Would-be pugilist Andy Harris tried to bring a concealed handgun through security but was stopped by Capitol Police. To underscore the incompetence and negligence of those violating the rule, Harris turned to passerby Rep. John Katko of New York and asked him to temporarily hold onto the handgun so he could go and vote. Katko refused, stating he lacked the appropriate “license.”
“Look, the temperature is high right now politically,” Rep. Jared Huffman of California told The Hill on January 22. Huffman is leading a campaign to ban gun-carrying by Members on Capitol grounds. He warned, “It is insane to rely on an honor system that could allow something really tragic to happen. And I would say it’s just a matter of time before it does.”
There’s no indication from Speaker Pelosi as to when armed House Republicans’ efforts to bypass security are going to be stopped (by arrest, preferably). She’s indicated she will call a vote on her proposed package of fines in early February.