Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are now mulling over how they can go about protecting themselves when appearing in public. Leadership in the House and Senate have their own protection, but the vast majority of members do not, and there are many competing ideas being floated as to the best way of ensuring elected officials can be safely accessible to the public.
The Hill reports on the simmering discussion happening now on Capitol Hill:
Even before the attack, Republican members of Congress were on edge about threats and harassment from constituents angry with President Trump and the GOP’s push to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Their concerns have only been heightened by Wednesday’s assault, where the lives of lawmakers were likely saved by the presence of Capitol Police officers who were on security detail for House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.).
Lawmakers were visibly shaken by the second incident of gun violence targeting one of their own in the last six years. In 2011, former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head at a constituent event.
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) announced that he plans to carry a gun with him from now on. Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) said Congress should consider expanding ways for lawmakers to defend themselves. And Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the third-ranking House Democrat, said he wants to give lawmakers more flexibility to secure their homes and offices.
“You look at the vulnerability. I can assure you, from this day forward, I have a carry permit, I will be carrying when I’m out and about,” Collins told local ABC affiliate WKBW in Buffalo, N.Y.
Collins will not be able to carry a gun at all times, however. Guns are banned from the Capitol complex, and the District of Columbia has strict gun laws.
As noted, some members carry their own firearms for personal protection. However, that privilege does not extend out of their home state to the District of Columbia which is where they spend roughly half their time.
One Congressman, Barry Loudermilk, a Republican from Georgia, wants members of Congress to be able to carry a firearm from their home state into Washington, DC:
One Republican lawmaker believes that concealed carry reciprocity for members of Congress should be considered as part of possible security upgrades after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., was shot at practice for the congressional charity baseball game early Wednesday morning.
Under Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s proposal, members who are allowed to conceal carry a weapon in their home state would be able to in Washington. Loudermilk, R-Ga., said the problem is that the nation’s capital does not recognize concealed carry licenses from other states.
“There are several things to look at,” Loudermilk said. “First of all, if this had happened in Georgia, he wouldn’t have gotten too far. 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. 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?”
“I think we need to look at some kind of reciprocity for members here,” Loudermilk said. “But also we need to look at security detail. If Scalise hadn’t been on our team, it would have been really bad.”
That’s all well and good, but how is that going to play out politically when Congress extends itself a privilege that no other American can enjoy? If the reciprocity only applies to members of Congress, I doubt that many constituents will be happy as it would both imply and infer that those who don’t have that privilege are less safe than those who possess it.
This will be an ongoing debate, but I think it’s safe to assume that security will be increased, especially for instances where several members of Congress are gathered for an event. Very likely it will be a coordination with local police and simply using resources and personnel already in place to harden targets where elected officials will be appearing.
As of article time, Rep. Steve Scalise is still in critical condition so our thoughts and prayers are with his family.