Guns in the House? A raucous Natural Resources panel debate


House Natural Resources Committee Republicans on Wednesday defeated Rep. Jared Huffman’s (D-Calif.) push to reinstate an explicit ban on carrying firearms to the committee room after a lengthy and occasionally heated debate.

The panel’s chair, Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), repeatedly declined to clarify, under questioning from Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Huffman, whether he interpreted House rules as barring firearms from committee rooms. Multiple Democrats contended that different members have various interpretations of the House rules, but Westerman referred their questions to the Administration Committee, which sets the chamber’s internal standards.

At one point, Huffman asked his colleagues for a show of hands to reflect who among them were currently not carrying a weapon — a question many Republicans declined to answer. He then asked how many lawmakers felt like they would need a weapon in the committee room.

“I feel I need one everywhere here. There are often times we are harassed in the hallways. We walk alone,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) replied, underscoring that it would “not be an unloaded weapon.”

But the California Democrat defended his push for the amendment: “We can have our political disagreements, and they will be spirited. But no one should have to worry about members of the other side of the aisle — let alone members who have incited political violence — bringing weapons, in violation of House rules, into our committee room.”

While they held the House majority in 2021, Democrats added an explicit prohibition on bringing firearms to the committee room “in the wake of the Jan. 6” Capitol attack, ranking member Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said. That move also responded to an attempt at the time by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) to bring a firearm onto the House floor, a move that further exacerbated security concerns.

Members of Congress are afforded certain carve-outs to the otherwise outright ban on firearms on the Capitol complex: They are permitted to keep guns in their offices and transport them, if they are unloaded and securely wrapped. Guns are explicitly forbidden on the House and Senate floors, as well as certain nearby areas.

Panel Republicans repeatedly called the amendment unnecessary and argued they should not be viewed as safety threats by their colleagues.

“Do you think we’re going to hurt you? We would never hurt you. I would use my firearm to defend you. Just to be clear,” Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), a freshman, said.

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) asked Ocasio-Cortez whether she thought any committee member was a “homicidal maniac,” challenging her to “name the names and present the evidence.”

Ocasio-Cortez replied that she was not trying to “impugn the character of any individual member of this committee” but that “from what I’ve witnessed, the competence of some members may be something that I would be willing to question.”

Democrats, for their part, repeatedly pressed Westerman to answer how he interpreted the existing House rules for gun possession.

“When you have reason to believe committee members, right here, intend to bring weapons into this committee room … we’re entitled to your interpretation of the House rules,” Huffman said. “You need to tell them that that’s either okay or not for the safety and security this committee.”

His push was ultimately unsuccessful though, as the amendment fell 14-25. Huffman is, however, also collecting signatures on a letter to congressional leadership seeking information on security preparations ahead of the State of the Union address next week.

Nancy Vu contributed to this report.

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