WASHINGTON ― New security measures outside the US House chamber prevented a Republican lawmaker from bringing a gun onto the House floor Thursday.
Representative Andy Harris, who has repeatedly flouted the magnetometers that were installed near the House chamber after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, set off the metal detectors while trying to enter. When an officer with a metal detector wand scanned him, a firearm was detected on Harris’s side, concealed by his suit coat. Police refused to let Harris in, and the officer signalled a security agent that Harris had a gun on him by motioning toward his own firearm.
HuffPost witnessed the interaction and later confirmed with a Capitol official that Harris was carrying a gun.
HuffPost watched Harris try to get another member to take the gun from him so he could go vote. The member, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), told Harris he didn’t have “a license” and refused to hold the weapon for him.
HuffPost also heard Harris complain to some fellow members that he had asked his staff to remind him about the screenings and they hadn’t.
Harris then left on the elevators and 10 minutes later returned to the House chamber. He placed his cellphone and keys on a desk to the side, did not set off the magnetometer and was allowed to enter the House floor to vote on a waiver to allow retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as President Joe Biden’s defense secretary.
Congress has been in a heightened state of security since the Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol as both chambers of Congress were meeting to count states’ Electoral College votes. Even though President Joe Biden has been inaugurated, there are still two large fences around the perimeter of the Capitol, and National Guard troops remain on the grounds.
During a security briefing with Democratic members early last week, some lawmakers suggested that members should have to go through a metal detector to get on the House floor. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) has said she’ll carry a gun around D.C., which does not allow the open carrying of a firearm, and Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) told his local paper that he was armed when insurrectionists stormed the Capitol.
When House lawmakers came back Jan. 12 for their first votes after the attack, they found magnetometers outside entrances to the House chamber. Most members followed police orders and went through the metal detectors, but some Republicans sidestepped the machines or refused to be checked with wands after they set it off ― Harris among them.
In response, Capitol Police put desks and velvet ropes on the sides of the magnetometers to block members from walking around the machines, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she will fine members who bypass screenings $5,000 for their first offense and $10,000 for their second.
Those fines are not yet in effect, as the House hasn’t adopted those rules, and a few members continue to not comply with the screenings. On Thursday, HuffPost saw Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Rick Allen (R-Ga.) and Boebert all refuse to be wanded down after setting off the magnetometer.
But when Harris went through the metal detector Thursday and set it off, the police officer stepped in his way and directed Harris to spread his arms so he could use the handheld wand. Harris complied, and the officer found the gun on his side.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Capitol Police would only tell HuffPost that “USCP is investigating this matter,” and when we asked for clarification on whether the USCP was aware that Harris had attempted to bring a gun onto the House floor, the spokesperson said the agency couldn’t comment on “an ongoing investigation.”
Members are allowed to carry a gun in the office buildings, in the Capitol and on Capitol grounds, but they are expressly forbidden from carrying firearms onto the floor. And guns in the Capitol are not supposed to be loaded. Members can carry bullets separately.
Individual officers who witnessed the situation also wouldn’t comment. However, HuffPost heard officers talking about Harris having a weapon on him later Thursday afternoon.
Harris’s office did not return multiple requests for comment, nor did Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.
HuffPost did ask Pelosi for comment Thursday afternoon as she walked by the House chamber, but she told reporters she wouldn’t be taking questions.
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