Dec 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Hoyer pushes to limit firearms in Capitol after gun arrest

Steny Hoyer

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Tuesday asked the Capitol's top security officials for a briefing clarifying rules around lawmakers carrying firearms in the Capitol complex.

Why it matters: The request comes at the close of a tense and violent year for Congress, which was most recently rocked by last week's arrest of an aide who allegedly carried an unlicensed handgun into a House office building.

  • The Capitol Police said Friday it took 12 minutes to track down and arrest the staffer after officers spotted an image of the gun on an X-ray screen.

What they're saying: Hoyer sent a letter to the four members of the Capitol Police board requesting they clarify for lawmakers the rules about them carrying firearms in their offices, as well as committee rooms and other parts of the Capitol.

  • "I have heard from a number of Members and staff who are greatly concerned about the lack of clarity about rules that permit Members of Congress to carry personal firearms in their offices," Hoyer wrote.
  • Hoyer added, "Too often we have seen instances in which Members have claimed that it is permissible to carry firearms (and, indeed, have admitted that they were in possession of firearms) elsewhere in the Capitol ... which under current regulations is prohibited."
  • Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) has said he was armed during the Jan. 6 attack and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) argued in January she is "legally permitted" to carry a firearm in the Capitol complex.

Hoyer wrote in his letter the presence of guns in the building "makes them less safe to all, especially to the Capitol Police," by increasing the risk of "a violent incident, an accidental discharge, or some other preventable tragedy."

  • "That is why it is essential that rules and regulations regarding where personal firearms may or may not be carried must be communicated clearly to members," he added.
  • "I hope that, as the Board continues to identify other ways to maintain the highest levels of safety on Capitol Hill, you will consider ensuring that committee rooms, hearing rooms, and other areas of public gathering will always be firearm-free."

The backdrop: Guns in the Capitol have become a hot-button this year in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 riot, after which metal detectors were installed outside the House chamber.

  • Shortly after the metal detectors were installed, Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) set one off by carrying a concealed gun on his way into the chamber.
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