New Metal Detectors at House Chamber Entrances Rankle Gun-toting Member
WASHINGTON — A new policy requiring members of Congress to pass through metal detectors to search for weapons created a controversy Tuesday evening only hours after the House sergeant at arms announced it.
The policy is a reaction to rioting at the Capitol last week and ongoing warnings from the FBI of violence as the Jan. 20 inauguration of a new president approaches.
“Effective immediately, all persons, including members, are required to undergo security screening when entering the House Chamber,” the announcement said. “Failure to complete screening or the carrying of prohibited items could result in denial of access to the Chamber.”
Some lawmakers criticized the policy by pointing out that the threat of violence came from persons outside of Congress.
One of the critics was freshman Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who created an incident at a security station at a door to the House of Representatives chambers.
The metal detector alarms sounded as she tried to pass through them Tuesday. She refused to allow her bag to be inspected by Capitol Police, who then blocked her from entering the House chambers.
Although she was allowed into the chambers for a vote later, she apparently was not carrying a gun. Boebert implied in a tweet that she was carrying a gun during the earlier incident with police.
“I am legally permitted to carry my firearm in Washington, D.C., and within the Capitol complex,” Boebert wrote. “Metal detectors outside of the House would not have stopped the violence we saw last week — it’s just another political stunt by Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi.”
The incident appears to be a controversial early start for a congresswoman who is making gun rights a central theme of her new career in Washington.
Days earlier, she was involved in a face-off with District of Columbia officials over her plan to carry a concealed gun around the city.
Even before she was sworn into office on Jan. 3, Boebert authored a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., opposing a Democratic proposal to ban lawmakers from carrying guns on Capitol grounds.
Currently, members of Congress can legally carry their guns on the U.S. Capitol campus. However, they are not allowed in the Capitol building.
In other locations, the right to carry a gun is governed by District of Columbia law, which is among the most restrictive in the United States.
Generally, D.C. law requires a license to carry a handgun. The licenses are issued to qualified applicants by the Metropolitan Police Department after an extensive background check, gun training and only at the discretion of the police. Concealed firearm licenses from other jurisdictions are not valid in the District of Columbia.
Boebert does not have a license for the District of Columbia but she has completed a firearms training course required to obtain one. She is asking the D.C. police for an exception to local regulations.
The mayor and police chief say they will not grant her an exception to the laws.
On Jan. 3, Boebert posted a video on the Internet announcing her intention of carrying a concealed handgun in the District of Columbia. The video shows her loading a Glock semi-automatic gun and placing it under her jacket before taking a walk in downtown Washington.
“Even though I now work in one of the most liberal cities in America, I refuse to give up my rights, especially my Second Amendment rights,” she said.
The 5-foot tall congresswoman has expressed concern for her safety when she works alone in Washington.
Even employees at a restaurant she owns in Rifle, Colo., are allowed to openly carry guns. The restaurant is called Shooters Grill.
Washington, D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee said during a press conference last week that he would contact Boebert’s office to ensure she was aware of local gun laws.
Boebert won the November election shortly before 21 Democrats wrote a letter to congressional leaders asking that a firearms ban for lawmakers on the Capitol grounds be included in a pending House rules bill. They gained the right to carry guns at the Capitol under a 1967 regulation that grants an exception to the gun ban that anyone else must obey.
Democrats who signed the letter said it’s time to eliminate the exception.
The exception for Congress raises “several serious concerns,” the letter said. In addition, “members may unwillingly be putting themselves and others in danger.”
Boebert, along with 82 other members of Congress, responded with their own letter to congressional leaders opposing any efforts to reduce the rights of lawmakers to carry guns.
The letter, dated Jan. 1, says in part, “Washington, D.C. has a violent crime problem and D.C.’s violent crime rate is 158 percent higher than the national average. In 2020 alone, there have been more than 180 homicides, more than 1,500 assaults with a deadly weapon, and more than 1,800 robberies. Furthermore, there is a history of violent attacks on members of Congress and Capitol Police.”
She explained her motivation for writing the letter in a statement to her constituents that said, “I promise I will never stop defending your Constitutional rights.”
Boebert’s office did not respond to calls and email from The Well News asking for comment.