How Many Members Of Congress Are Armed On The Job?

Concealed carry in the District of Columbia is a fairly new phenomenon; it wasn’t until 2017 that the District actually established a process by which folks could obtain a carry license, and “shall issue” concealed carry didn’t exist in our nation’s capitol until 2018, when the D.C. Court of Appeals struck down the District’s “good cause” requirement.

However, since 1967 members of Congress have been authorized to carry on the Capitol grounds and buildings (though not in the legislative chambers themselves). This little-known loophole is getting some attention this week after an incoming freshman representative allegedly made inquiries about bringing her gun to work.

Republican Lauren Boebert, 33, was elected this month from a conservative western Colorado district after gaining notice as a brash pro-gun activist who straps a Glock pistol to her hip. In an upset last June, she defeated five-term Rep. Scott Tipton for the GOP nomination, in part by claiming he wasn’t an ardent enough backer of President Donald Trump.

Boebert asked Capitol Police officials about carrying her weapon when she and other House freshmen taking office in January were in town recently for orientation programs, according to two congressional officials. Both people — a Democrat and a Republican — spoke on condition of anonymity to describe her request.

Aides to Boebert, who Trump endorsed as “a fighter” who will “never bow down to the establishment in Congress,” did not make her available for an interview.

“This was a private discussion and inquiry about what the rules are, and as a result the Congresswoman-Elect won’t be going on the record,” Boebert aide Laura Carno said in an email last week.

Boebert wouldn’t be the first member of Congress to carry at the Capitol, though just how common the practice is remains unknown. In fact, under the rules established by the Capitol Police Board back in the late 1960s, members of Congress don’t need to notify the agency that they’re carrying, so there’s no real way of determining just how many congresscritters are strapped while on the job.

As you can imagine, anti-gun politicians aren’t happy about the fact that their colleagues may be exercising their Second Amendment rights on Capitol Hill. Back in 2018, Rep. Jared Huffman, a California Democrat, tried to change the rules and bar colleagues from carrying, but met with stiff opposition. Huffman told the Associated Press that he has no plans to try to revisit the issue this year, though he still objects to the practice.

Huffman said the loophole for lawmakers, adopted after a summer of racial unrest in American cities, is outdated and risky.

He said members and their staffs carry firearms around the Capitol “all the time,” though he mentioned no names. He said lawmakers keep guns in their publicly accessible offices, though building entry has been limited due to COVID-19.

“Members could have a loaded AK47 sitting on their desk and no one would ever do anything about it,” Huffman said.

He also said with lawmakers exempted from passing through screening devices throughout the Capitol campus, “no one checks” to make sure they’re not bringing guns onto the House floor.

If members of Congress are carrying around the Capitol on a regular basis without incident, why is Huffman so hot and bothered by the practice? Maybe it’s because Huffman’s a vociferous gun-hater who thinks U.S. gun laws should look a lot more like California’s, as he urged last year.

I’m not bothered by the fact that members of Congress can carry on the Capitol grounds. What bothers me is the double standard; elected officials can walk around with a pistol on their hip, but the average Hill staffer, office worker, maintenance crew member, or even cafeteria employee face arrest for bringing their gun to work, even if they’re licensed to carry.

Frankly, many of those working within the confines of the Capitol have a greater need for self-defense compared to members of Congress. The average hourly employee doesn’t live in a penthouse apartment at the Watergate, after all, and may have to navigate some pretty rough neighborhoods in order to get to and from work. Because of the federal ban on firearms at the U.S. Capitol, those employees aren’t just defenseless on the job but are required to be disarmed on their way to and from their workplace as well.

If any member of Congress wants to carry a firearm to protect themselves and others from harm, that’s fine by me. I’d just like to hear at least one of them push to extend the right to carry to all legal gun owners on Capitol Hill, and not just the ones who’ve been sent to Washington to represent their constituents.

Jun 20, 2021 11:30 AM ET
Jun 18, 2021 7:00 PM ET