Tensions are running high on Capitol Hill after a Republican congressman tried to smuggle a gun onto the House floor and almost got away with it. The incident raised concerns about Capitol security and whether members of Congress need protection from one another with some Democrats are now openly expressing that they don’t feel safe around certain colleagues.
The renewed concern was sparked by GOP Rep. Andy Harris, of Maryland, who he set off a newly installed metal detector off the House floor with a concealed gun, despite a longtime ban on firearms in the chamber, The Hill reports.
The incident has fueled the spiking anger and distrust in the wake of this month’s Capitol attack by Trump supporters, and some lawmakers fear that heated debates could turn violent.
“Look, the temperature is high right now politically. 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” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) told The Hill.
Another Democratic lawmaker said she never would have envisioned violence breaking out during floor debate when she first started serving in the House in 2015. Now, she says, it’s another story.
“You can’t be afraid that the person that you’re having a little argument with on the floor with C-SPAN watching is going to pull a gun and, like, shoot you,” Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) said.
“If you had said that to me six years ago I’d say, ‘Whoever is afraid of that is crazy. That would never happen.’ Now? Sorry. All bets are off. It’s a totally different climate. Totally different climate. And we have to recognize that,” she added, according to The Hill.
Both acknowledged that it may also be time to require lawmakers to go through metal detectors while entering office buildings in the Capitol complex like everyone else.
“Just treat members like every other member of the public coming into the Capitol,” Huffman said. “You can’t have an honor system with dishonorable people who think the rules don’t apply to them.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — who revealed she had a “close encounter” on Jan. 6 — cited security concerns for not attending President Biden’s inauguration, saying during an interview on CNN’s “Cuomo Prime Time” that “we still don’t yet feel safe around other members of Congress.”
The metal detectors were installed last week after first-term GOP Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Madison Cawthorn (N.C.) publicly discussed carrying their weapons around Capitol Hill. Both were also among several House Republicans who engaged in inflammatory rhetoric promoting former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud ahead of the Capitol attack that left five people dead.