When a deranged gunman opened fire on a baseball practice of Congress members last year, possibly the only thing potentially preventing a bloodbath of dozens of members was high-ranking member Steve Scalise’s security detail returning fire.
Since then, the number of mass shootings has only gone up with the Las Vegas concert, Texas church, and Florida high school — as public approval of Congress hovers near all time lows.
Combine all these factors together, and some Congress members want a special law allowing any member to carry a concealed weapon — any time, any place.
(A then-member of Congress, Gabby Giffords of Arizona, was shot in the head and almost died at a constituent event in 2011. Six other people at the event died.)
What the bills do
Two similar House bills were both introduced in the days after the June 2017 congressional baseball practice shooting.
The Congressional Self-Defense Act [H.R. 2940] was introduced by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL5). It would allow concealed carry for any member with ID on them at the time, including in the Capitol Building, except for when appearing with the president or vice president. (The Secret Service prevents anybody else from carrying weapons around the president or vice president.) It’s attracted four cosponsors, all Republicans.
The Congressional Personal Safety Act [H.R. 2945] was introduced by Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA10). The main difference is that it would not allow concealed carry by Congress members in the Capitol Building or the building’s grounds. It’s attracted one Republican cosponsor.
Both bills await a potential vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
What supporters say
Supporters argue the bill would allow a greater level of protection for Congress members who choose to exercise the right — and when the threats to their lives are sometimes not hypothetical.
“Although high-profile targets of lone wolf shooters and terrorists, Congressmen and Senators (excepting leadership) enjoy very limited to no law enforcement protection when off the Capitol Hill campus. Surprisingly, because of Washington, D.C.’s restrictive gun laws, Congressmen and Senators are not allowed to carry a concealed weapon,” Brooks said in a press release. “I introduced the Congressional Self-Defense Act to allow lawmakers to conceal carry so that they are better positioned to defend themselves against lone wolf and terrorist attacks.”
What opponents say
Opponents counter that the bill serves to undermine the locally passed laws about gun control that have been passed by local Washington, D.C. officials and generally enjoy widespread support in the district.
“Representative Brooks wants to misuse congressional power over the District of Columbia to single out our local jurisdiction,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said in a press release. “After last week’s shooting, Representative Brooks called for sending a message of unity and bipartisanship to the American people. He is undermining that goal with his attack on D.C.’s local gun safety laws.”
D.C. currently lists 18 locations where concealed carry is not allowed, including any stadium or arena, school zone, hospital, the National Mall or other memorials.
Odds of passage
While it’s possible that one or both of the bills could receive a vote, the opportunity to “strike while the iron is hot” has largely passed.
President Trump personally told Scalise that inserting concealed carry language into congressional legislation right now would probably prevents a bill’s enactment. While Trump was specifically referring to a then-pending proposal that would require states to accept each other’s concealed carry laws, the same could possibly be said about these bills as well.