News & Politics

Gun Extremists in Congress Don’t Believe in Metal Detectors After Capitol Assault

When legislators won't even follow their own rules, it's very dangerous.

Photograph via iStock.

For years, locals in the nation’s capital have gnashed their teeth about having to answer to a Congress that doesn’t have to abide by local laws.

In just the past year, there have been minor and major outrages over things like Congressional offices pressuring staff to work, sans mask, in a Covid hot zone environment (something that would get local private-sector employers in hot water) and a newly elected representative posting a video that purported to show her packing a Glock on city streets (a no-no for regular locals)—not to mention the well-documented scenes of members of Congress cavorting masklessly in spite of the rules in places like National Airport. A bunch of them also appear on the infamous tape of last fall’s White House superspreader event, the sort of gathering that could draw a citation if it happened at a regular residence.

But an incident in the Capitol yesterday suggests that some Hill extremists now won’t even follow Congress’ own rules in a building that is—among other things—the workplace for a lot of people.

The stand-off took place at one of the metal detectors that were installed following last week’s breach of the Capitol by an insurrectionist mob. According to a report in Punchbowl’s morning newsletter, several Republican members deemed the metal detector and magnetometer screenings a violation of their Constitutional rights. (Weapons are in fact banned from the floor of Congress.) A scrum ensued, with much shouting, huffing, puffing, and multiple members simply going around the security check.

And when it was over, naturally, one of them took to the floor to denounce the “atrocities” including the violation of members’ nonexistent right to bring weapons onto the floor, making the dubious argument that armed members might have prevented the building from being overrun.

This is, quite plainly, dangerous stuff. As American politics frayed in the 1850s, a stair-step on the path to disunion came when a radical Southern Congressman nearly beat anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner to death on the floor of the Senate. He used a cane. It’s altogether a good thing that neither he nor anyone else reached for a Glock that day.

Given the maximalist, apocalyptic rhetoric of politics, it’s not entirely impossible to imagine some new Congressional argument escalating to the point where tempers flare and weapons come out. More prosaically, it’s not hard at all to imagine a tragic accident.

There’s also a broader danger—the danger of having an elected class that puts itself above not just local laws but its own rules, not to mention politeness, courtesy, and common sense. That’s on particular display for DC locals who would prefer not to share sidewalks with people who flout (or release videos pretending to flout) local gun laws or share indoor air with the kind of people who refuse masks even when asked by colleagues while locked down during an insurrection. But it ought to be a concern anywhere.

 

 

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Editor

Michael Schaffer has been editor of Washingtonian since 2014. A former editor of Washington City Paper and editorial director of The New Republic, Michael is also the author of One Nation Under Dog, a 2009 book about America’s obsession with pets. A DC native, he currently lives in Chevy Chase DC with his wife and their two daughters.