It's been quite a while since violence has broken out in the hallowed halls of Congress. Sure, lawmakers sometimes joke about killing one another (ha ha?), and yeah, there are plenty of heated arguments over doing the bare minimum to help contain a deadly pandemic. But actual, honest-to-god, fist-meets-face violence is often reserved for better-functioning democracies than ours.
Still, the threat of imminent physical harm between lawmakers — the sort that hasn't really been seen since at the Capitol since the mid-'80s, and then a century before that — has ratcheted up significantly since the November elections, thanks to a number of incoming legislators who want to change the congressional rules so they can carry guns on the House and Senate floors.
While the public is barred from packing heat in the Capitol complex, lawmakers may currently arm themselves in their offices, but not on the House and Senate floor. Among those reportedly pushing for the rule change to allow floor-firearms is newly elected Colorado congresswoman Lauren Boebert, a restauranteur whose "Shooters Grill" features a heavily armed waitstaff, and who also once gave customers bloody diarrhea from improperly handled meat. According to multiple sources, Boebert spent part of her House orientation asking Capitol Police about where she would be allowed to carry her pistol while representing her constituents in D.C.
"This was a private discussion and inquiry about what the rules are, and as a result the congresswoman-elect won't be going on the record," one of Boebert's aides told AP when asked for comment.
While Boebert is arguably the most visible gun enthusiast coming to Washington, she is reportedly not alone in wanting to put the power of life and death in her hands while debating, I don't know, tax law. QAnon-supporting, AR-15-loving Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene told AP that she would work to dismantle all gun-free zones everywhere. "Not only do I support members of Congress carrying a firearm," she said, "I believe every American has that right." She did not speak to whether she would personally carry a firearm in the House itself.
Nevertheless, according to Axios, there are in fact "several" soon-to-be legislators who have brought up lugging their firearms around the Capitol — so much so that the Capitol Police Board, which handles congressional security at the Capitol complex, is reportedly reviewing the rules about where elected officials can pack heat.
Earlier this month, nearly two dozen Democratic House members wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) urging them to reconcile the public ban on carrying firearms at the Capitol with the current rules which exempt lawmakers. In their letter, the group explained that:
Despite assurances from the House Sergeant at Arms that freshmen members would be instructed on gun regulations during New Member Orientation, most returning members are likely not aware of any regulations whatsoever regarding firearms on Capitol grounds. As a result, there is a total lack of uniformity and procedure surrounding members of Congress carrying firearms, which fosters an environment where members may unwittingly be putting themselves and others in danger.
A number of high-profile Republicans, meanwhile, expressed varying degrees of acceptance of their colleagues' desire to arm themselves within the Capitol building and on the floor of the chambers. House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) told Axios he's "fine" with the idea of armed colleagues on the House floor.
Why any lawmaker would want to pack heat in one of the most secure buildings on Earth is a different question entirely. It's hard to imagine they would need it for the purpose of actual self-defense while casting their votes. Georgia Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson called it a "provocation" to Axios, while his colleague Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) mused that "it's more for making a political statement than a personal security."
Of course, given that Taylor Greene other Republican lawmakers have not-so-subtly threatened their Democratic counterparts with the suggestion of gun violence, it's easy to see their push to carry firearms onto the House and Senate floor as a direct continuation of their efforts to intimidate and menace. It's almost enough to make you nostalgic for the late 1700s — a simpler time, when elected officials only tried to bludgeon each other to death with a pair of fireplace tongs.