Rep. Steube endorses guns in US Capitol

A Capitol Police Honor Guard salutes the coffins of Officer Jacob Chestnut and Detective John Gibson as they lie in repose following a July 1998 shooting in the US Capitol. (Photo: US House)

Dec. 17, 2020 by David Silverberg

Rep. Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.), whose district covers Charlotte County, Venice and northern Lehigh Acres, is opposing a Democratic effort to ban the carrying of guns by members of Congress on US Capitol grounds.

“The Second Amendment should not end at the steps of the Capitol,” Steube stated in a tweet yesterday, Dec. 16. “Yet another egregious overreach and Constitutional failure from the Democrats.”

The new controversy over congressional gun regulations was sparked by two events.

Rep.-elect Lauren Boebert (R-3-Colo.), a QAnon-endorsing newly-elected member of Congress, who frequently carries weapons, asked Capitol Police during new member orientation whether she could carry a gun on Capitol grounds. A 1967 regulation allows members to carry weapons. In his tweet, Steube stated that he agreed with Boebert.

On Dec. 15, 21 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter (reproduced below) to House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Fla.) and Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-23-Calif.) asking for “inclusion of language in the House Rules package for the 117th Congress banning members from carrying firearms on Capitol grounds.”

The members argued that “Ultimately, the current regulations create needless risk for Members of Congress, their staff, members of the Capitol Police, and visitors to the Capitol grounds. A provision in the Rules package directing the Capitol Police Board to ensure that Member of Congress may not possess firearms on Capitol grounds would ensure clarity surrounding firearms policy and protect all individuals in and around the Capitol.”

The regulation, 40 U.S. Code § 5104, states that an individual or group “may not carry on or have readily accessible to any individual on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings a firearm, a dangerous weapon, explosives, or an incendiary device.” It makes an exception for members of Congress, staff and employees.

The US House of Representatives has been the target of gun violence in the past. On March 1, 1954 four Puerto Rican separatists fired about 30 rounds onto the floor of the House from the visitors’ gallery, wounding five representatives, one seriously. All four were arrested and given long sentences before being pardoned by President Jimmy Carter in 1978 and 1979. (The bullet holes are still in evidence and congressional lore holds that sticking a finger into one brings good luck.)

On July 24, 1998 Russell Weston entered the Capitol and killed two US Capitol Police officers, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, before being subdued. Weston was captured, determined to be incompetent to stand trial and was committed to a mental institution.

Steube, a vociferous supporter of Donald Trump, has called for loosened gun regulations before. On March 5 he introduced a bill to speed approval of applications for gun silencers (technically known as suppressors) by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ENDS Act (End the Normalized Delay of Suppressors Act) (HR 6126) would amend the tax code to give the ATFE a deadline of 90 days to decide whether to approve a suppressor application. The bill never made it out of committee and will die with the end of the 116th Congress.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

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