Lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee got into a contentious debate Wednesday over an attempt by Democrats to reinstate a rule banning guns from the committee room.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., proposed an amendment that would explicitly prohibit members from carrying firearms within the hearing rooms and conference rooms of the committee. He said the amendment was “sadly necessary” after the Republican-controlled Rules Committee stripped a provision from the Natural Resources Committee rules that Democrats had adopted for the previous two years prohibiting firearms after that Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The Republican majority voted the amendment down 14-25, but not before several minutes of heated back-and-forth between committee members, including one moment where Huffman called for a show of hands to see who was not carrying a firearm right then and there.
“We have too many members who have incited and advocated armed political violence. That is really unfortunate, but that is just a fact,” the California Democrat said, accusing unnamed lawmakers of “flouting” federal statutes barring members of Congress from carrying loaded firearms in the Capitol.
“Some have reveled in the removal of the magnetometers at the House chamber that were there to prevent something truly awful from happening,” he continued.
“They have openly fetishized guns and violence to the point where one of my colleagues across the aisle was removed from their committee assignments for portraying himself killing another member who sits on this very same committee,” Huffman said, referring to Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., who was removed from his committee assignments in the last Congress for sharing an animated video showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Both lawmakers now sit on the Natural Resources Committee.
Committee Chairman Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., led Republicans in opposition to the amendment, calling it “unnecessary,” and observing that no other committee has such a provision in the rules.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., spoke out against the amendment, ridiculing it as an “anti-member safety amendment” and showing an image of Huffman wearing a tinfoil hat. She said Democrats were “wasting time on political stunts” and argued the proposed restriction triggers “constitutional concerns.” She asked if Huffman was proposing to “stop and frisk” members of Congress.
“With threats against members of Congress at an all-time high, I would like to remind the gentleman that now is not the time to be stripping members of our constitutional right to defend ourselves,” Boebert said, pointing to the high crime rate in Washington, D.C.
Democrats pushed back, with both Reps. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Ocasio-Cortez pressing Huffman on whether he interpreted House rules as barring members from carrying guns into committee rooms.
“Members have different interpretations of what those rules are,” Ocasio-Cortez told Westerman. “I need to know for a sense of my own personal safety what your interpretation of the House rules are as it pertains to this issue.”
The chairman deflected her questions, referring her to the House Administration Committee and stating “we will follow the rules of the House.”
When Huffman asked for a show of hands on which committee members were not carrying a firearm, Republicans did not participate. Then he asked who felt like they needed to carry a weapon in the “fortress” of the Capitol.
“I feel I need one everywhere here. There are often times we are harassed in the hallways. We walk alone,” Boebert chimed in, emphasizing it would “not be an unloaded weapon.”
Huffman called Boebert’s comment “helpful” and showed the importance of his 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.”
“Do you think we’re going to hurt you?” asked freshman Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., an Air Force veteran. “We would never hurt you. I would use my firearm to defend you. Just to be clear.”
Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., asked if either Huffman or Ocasio-Cortez had “reason to believe that there is a homicidal maniac amongst us?”
“If they do, they probably would’ve brought a gun into this room whether or not there is a law,” he said. He challenged the Democrats to “name the names and present the evidence before such a catastrophe confronts us.”
Ocasio-Cortez replied that she was not attempting to “impugn the character of any individual member of this committee.”
However, she added, “I believe that from what I’ve witnessed, the competence of some members may be something that I would be willing to question.”