Cannon House Office Building (courtesy veterans.house.gov)

“Why they arrested Ryan Shucard last week, I shall never know,” Richard Cohen writes, sarcastically, at washingtpost.com. “All he did was bring your basic 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun into the U.S. Capitol (actually, the Cannon House Office Building), upon which, in clear violation of what the Founders intended – right, Justice Antonin Scalia? – he was seized and later had to appear in D.C. Superior Court where, thank God, he was eventually released pending a forthcoming hearing. If Shucard has any guts – and I’m not saying he doesn’t – he would cease insisting that the whole thing was an accident and instead assert a right to enter the Capitol of the United States of America as, surely, Thomas Jefferson and the other Fathers intended: armed.” Well, what about it? Why should local, state and federal legislative chambers be gun-free zones? Were they ever thus?

74 Responses to Question of the Day: Should Legislative Chambers Be Gun-Free Zones?

  1. You mean the GFZ’s like Fort Hood or the Washington D.C. ship yard? You know; the GFZ’s that actually have armed guards at the armored gates. How did that work out? Umm, no, there really is no such thing as a GFZ for the determined that want to die after killing a lot of people.

    So might at well acknowledge reality and allow the law abiding the chance to defend themselves.

    • Those two were examples of trusted, nonsecurity, insiders having guns. How is that even remotely similar to a policy of distrusting everyone and denying armed access to everyone who isn’t part of security?

      • Two possibilities J-H, one of your “trusted” security guys goes off, kills the other security guys and then goes on a shooting rampage; (Dorner) or a determined individual shoots the security guys at the door and then he is guaranteed defenseless sheep to slaughter.

        Like I said; when the shooter intends to die; (hopefully in his own mind after shooting a bunch of people), there is no way to guarantee that he will be stopped by any amount of defenses. The only way to guarantee a chance of defending our lives is to honor our god given, natural and constitutional right to self-defense.

  2. At the very least the employees and legislators should be allowed to carry in their own workplace especially since legislating can make enemies and the inability to be able to be armed for self defense amidst potential enemies can hinder job performance.

    • Isn’t being gun-free just another choice someone makes? You may not agree with their choice and might not adopt it for yourself, but how is freedom of choice antithetical to a free country?

      • I’m not sure if I understand your comment. Liberty means people choose for themselves. If someone wants to be armed in public, that is fine. If someone wants to be unarmed in public, that is fine as well. The point is that the individual chooses, not government.

        When government chooses whether or not someone can be armed in public, that is not liberty — that is tyranny.

  3. Actually under the Constitution (Article I, Sec 5, paragraph 2) it is none of our business. Each house of Congress makes its own rules. If they want it to be a gun free zone then it is and if they don’t then it isn’t.

    • I wonder if they could force Negroes to sit in the back?

      That old pesky amendments to the Constitution thingy.

      • For a group of people who claim to be Constitutionalists there seems to be a lot people who don’t know what is in the Consitution. Congress regularly exempts itself from all sort laws but we are not talking about laws, we are talking about rules. The Constitution is explict. What goes on in each house of congress is the concern only of the members and not other branches of government or the public. You are either for the Constitution in its entirety or you are against it. There is the the amendment process so go ahead and lobby your Congressman to amend the Constitution to give you a say in the rules.

        • Incorrect. The Article states:

          “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a member.”

          In UNITED STATES v. BALLIN, it was clearly established that Congress – and no chamber within – may violate the Rights of an individual. That was set in 1892.

        • Whether you can bring a gun into the chamber falls under the rules and punishing disorderly behavior.. if you don’t like rules run for office and lobby to the change rules.

        • @tdiinva: It seems to me that if Mindflayer’s comment about UNITED STATES v. BALLIN is correct then they only way your last comment would make sense is if you didn’t consider keeping and bearing arms as being an individual right.

    • True. In fact, the Senate ultimately banned arms and foul language after one too many brawls and even a duel in the Senate cloak room. I think this means that the Senate floor was a more passionate place once upon a time, and that this lead to violent encounters. Maybe it was like the English Parliament–with guns and swords.

    • Actually it says: “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour, and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.”

      This is regarding proceedings (the clue is right there in the word… Proceedings) and has nothing to do with laws or rules affecting the grounds/building (like designating it a gun free zone). They could make rules like “in order to be recognized and address the Senate, you must be unarmed”, but under that paragraph alone, they could not designate the entire Capitol building as a gun free zone. Much less other nearby buildings. And outside buildings.

      Furthermore, you claim these are rules, not laws, and yet you CAN be arrested for violating a gun-free zone; that means it is a law, not a rule. Furthermore, as alluded to previously; not infringing the right to keep and bear arms is not just advice; it IS the law. It seems to me they have little leg to stand on to forbid people from carrying guns in and around the Capitol.

    • tdiinva,

      I read Article 1, Section 5, paragraph 2 meaning that each house of Congress sets their own procedural rules for conducting their appointed business. Rules like when they meet, how long they meet, formation of committees, whether they vote by voice or paper, etc. Those rules do not supersede our rights. For example that does not empower the Senate to make a rule which requires female senators to agree to rape before they can submit bills. If the Senate cannot force a female senator to be raped, then the Senate cannot force a Senator — or anyone else for that matter — to be disarmed.

      • For both you: The ability to punish disorderly behavior on the part of its members is granted under section 5. It is not a stretch to say that the members could define carrying a gun as disorderly behavior. Mr. Shucard is not a member of House or Senate and would not be granted the priviledge of being armed even if the House allowed it. He was arrested for violated the ban on firearms in federal buildings not for violating the rules of the chamber.

        • In states that actually respect the right to keep and bear arms to some degree, merely bearing arms is not disorderly conduct. Is it your position that the simple bearing of arms alone is disorderly?

        • It is illegal to carry firearms into any federal building by statute under the United States Code. If you don’t like it, you can get busted and challenge the constitutionality of the statute. But be prepared to lose. Heller suggests that such laws pass constitutional muster.

    • rdiinva,
      The courts have ruled a half a dozen times that refers to legislative PROCEDURES, not rules governing what people can and cannot do there and which that might impact constitutional rights.

  4. Unless they are willing to put the necessary security measures in place, ie controlled entry points with armed guards and metal detectors, then they should be allowing carry. No magical Harry Potter style shield is put in place when the sign goes up. If someone wants to kill a legislator, they can do it so long as they are willing to pay the price, ie suicide by cop or murder conviction

      • Any yet my wife was walking in and out of the buildings that make up the Congressional domian for several months with some spent 9mm brass in her purse from a range session without detection.

        • That’s because the threshold on most metal detectors is set low to not trigger off any tiny bit of metal. I know a casing looks like a big thing, but really when you consider how thin it is, there’s not a lot of metal there, not much more than on a typical person if they have zippers, snaps, jewelry, etc..

        • Assuming you are referring to the US Congress, I hope you are aware that even a spent casing is a “firearm” under the D.C. statute, a statute that further completely bars the carrying of firearms with exceptions for peace officers, unless the firearm is in a locked container. And you can be busted for possessing an unregistered firearm unless the cartridge, casing or bullet is in a caliber of a firearm that you have registered in D.C. Ms. Miller did a series of articles about this, and there was the story of the man (a lawyer actually) whose house was searched and he was arrested when his ex-wife gave the police a tip that he had unregistered firearms in his home (in D.C.). The police found 1. a legal percussion (antique) firearm that was exempt under the law (but was seized any way); 2. a shotgun shell; and 3. a spent casing from a rifle that he had legally stored in Virginia (but that was not registered in D.C.) which was a memento of a successful hunt. And he was prosecuted for it!

        • 9mm spent brass ANYWHERE in DC is a FELONY firearms possession unless locked and secured and in possession of a valid DC gun registrant and in direct travel from one legal place to have it to another.

          I am a DC firearms registrant. I can have spent brass locked in my trunk going from a range to home (or in a locked backpack or container). Any other possession is a felony. ALL possession of spent brass by a person who is not a valid DC firearms registrant is a FELONY/

          Mark: ” And you can be busted for possessing an unregistered firearm unless the cartridge, casing or bullet is in a caliber of a firearm that you have registered in D.C”

          No you are wrong, in fact it odes NOT need to be of the same caliber of the registered firearm. a 9mm firearm owner can have shotgun shells, .22, .223, 44 mag etc.

  5. No problem here in TX going to the Capitol armed as long as you have a CHL. We even get our own private entrance.

    • That’s true, up to a point, that point being while the legislature is not actually meeting.

      For our non-Texan readers, Texas is special (in many ways), particularly among large states, in that we have a “part-time” legislature. It meets in regular session for just 140 days starting in January of odd numbered years. Special sessions are not routine, but not unheard of, either, and sometimes extend the overall period into the summer of that year.

      Even so, we’re still talking about a legislature whose members are absent and whose chambers are empty for a year and a half+ in each two year cycle. The capitol is still open to the public for display and guided tours during this off season, during which licensed concealed carry is allowed. When the legislature is in session and actually meeting, however, as with any Texas government body, carrying in the meeting place is prohibited.

      • Actually, you statement is not correct. If you refer to this

        46.035
        (c) A license holder commits an offense if the license holder intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly carries a handgun under the authority of Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code, regardless of whether the handgun is concealed, at any meeting of a governmental entity.

        That only applies if you are given notice per 30.06

        “(i) Subsections (b)(4), (b)(5), (b)(6), and (c) do not apply if the actor was not given effective notice under Section 30.06.”

        So unless the meeting room is posted, carrying into the chambers is legal. Even if the chamber is posted, the rest of the Capitol building is legal to carry.

      • Virginia is even more part-time (as it should be).

        Regular sessions are:

        60 days in even-numbered years
        45 days in odd-numbered years

        The annual salary for delegates is $17,640 per year, state senators is $18,000. They’re not making a living off it.

        Citizen legislators with other careers.

        As the founders intended. Not full time “lords” feeding off the public trough.

      • Texas isn’t that special. Most mountain states have a part-time legislature.

        And, IMO, legislatures should always be a) part-time and b) paid a minimal sum for attending while in session so that c) a class of professional legislators cannot arise, as it has in places like California.

        The rights, property and persons of the populace are safest when legislatures are not in session.

  6. Politicians, bureaucrats, and generic tax-feeders fear the public. Not so much the mob, but the individual who says, “Enough is enough.”

    It’s why the police are becoming increasingly militarized; it’s why you have to empty your pockets and go through a metal detector to go submit a tax form at your local city hall.

    And face it: Those rules for entry to a public building, those metal detectors, and those ten-dollar-an-hour security guards aren’t going to stand in the way of an angry mob out for blood. But they will stop an individual who is about to get pushed to his breaking point.

    The questions then become: Who is the sovereign in this country? Is it the individual? Or is it “society”?

    It’s long been established (at least, in theory) that 51% of the people can’t vote to piss in the corn flakes of the other forty nine. Yet it seems to go the way of the fifty one quite a bit. (Truthfully, it’s not even fifty one – it’s maybe ten. Ten percent of the people vote to piss on the Ninety.)

    At what point is regime change an acceptable option? Where does regime change start? At the polls? The last few decades – or really, the last century – show that no matter which side gets voted in or voted out, the same plan marches inevitably forward with little to no delay.

    Is it an overreaction for a man who’s been fined an exorbitant amount for watering his lawn by some tax-fattened bureaucrat to want to go shoot up city hall? Isn’t a five hundred dollar fine for watering your lawn (or for letting it turn brown from not watering) an Eighth Amendment violation? Five! Hundred! Dollars! Or does the voice of “society” outweigh his rights? Should he have to spend years of time and savings, tied up in courts to try to fight it?

    What about a situation that’s unfolding in Plymouth Twp., MI? (http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/26087211/officials-in-plymouth-twp-proposing-new-rules-for-public-comments) The Township Board surreptitiously passed a resolution to build an amphitheater out in the middle of BFE; township residents will be taxed to subsidized its construction. At a recent Board meeting, hundreds of residents packed the Township Hall to voice their concerns and complaints. Faced with having to actually answer to their constituents, the Board is now changing the rules for public comment at the board meetings – they’re seeking to institute a 66% supermajority needed to even bring an issue for discussion, which is more than is needed to even take action on any issue.

    So, there’s an unaccountable bureaucracy working against the citizens of a small-ish city (pop ≈25K). Would the residents of Plymouth Township be justified in instituting regime change in their small town? Why or why not? How far should they be allowed to go? The ballot box? The ammo box? What if it’s only 30% of the people who are pissed off? Does it have to be 51%?

    At what point do the needs of “society” start to outweigh the needs of the individuals that society is comprised of? Who defines “society”? How can one person, elected or not, claim to be the voice of thousands (or millions)?

    “Society” is an abstract concept; it exists nowhere except in our minds. Individuals do exist – they are real, tangible, and everywhere.

    The sooner we let go of this strange mantra that “society wants…” and “society needs…” the sooner we can get back to respecting the individual as the sovereign, and not some peon to be lorded over by a petty desk jockey with an attitude problem.

    • All of your questions are good questions and they have difficult answers.

      In the end the trouble is accountability. Whether it is a city police officer ruining a good person’s life for having a firearm with no malice aforethought, a small township taking money from its residents for a pet project, a city telling good people what size soft drinks they can sell, a state telling good people how many rounds of ammunition their magazines can hold, or Congress telling good people how much wheat they can grow on their own property for their own consumption, the common problem is that those tyrants are never held accountable. Is it any wonder that they keep doing the same thing — and even escalating?

  7. Just so long as they are gun free for everyone, including security, police, and secret service.

  8. I dunno, given the general consensus that the severely mentally disabled shouldn’t have guns, maybe they ought to be– at least for the ones who work there. OK, seriously, no they shouldn’t, any more than any other place.

  9. They want the entire capitol to be a free fire zone.
    Since that was shut down, I doubt the policy on legislative buildings will change anytime soon. I can say that I think it should be illegal for an employer to prevent employees from concealed carry while working provided it doesn’t impact their job performance (and why should it?).

  10. I believe that anyone should be able to be armed anywhere, including Legislative Chambers. That’s really all there is to it.
    To play the Devil’s advocate, wouldn’t it make assassinations far easier?

  11. If I’m correct the only spree shooting I’m Swizterland has been in a Capitol building. A gun free zone.

  12. Not sure about the senate or house chambers, but in general you can legally carry concealed with a CCL in Florida state buildings. State employees can’t, per the terms of their employment.

  13. CNN reports, Bloomberg tweeted that he landed “safely ” at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, adding that he’s there “to show support for Israel’s right to defend itself.” Israel can defend itself, American citizens, not so much. Get on this TTAG.

  14. Political discourse and arms are meant to be separate in the republic. So I have no problem with it… as long as it is clearly laid out and the buildings are secured so that someone can’t bring a gun in by just disregarding the rule.

  15. “A fair and just government has nothing to fear from an armed citizenry.” – Thomas Jefferson

    So what does that say about our current ruling classes?

  16. “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for few public officials.” (George Mason, 3 Elliot, Debates at 425-426)

    by Mr. Mason’s opinion then, the actual lawmakers could arguably be exempt from constitutional protection of the right to be armed within legislative chambers, but there is no room for such exception for regular citizens.

  17. Why should local, state and federal legislative chambers be gun-free zones?

    Answer: they should not.

  18. In Chicago legal carry has been the rule since( from what I’ve seen) 1872 for Aldermen & women. I know former prostitute Dorothy Tillman carried a gun in the City Council. Further illustrating the absurdity of Chicago. Guns for me & none for thee…and I’m unaware of any city council gunfights. “But we’re more important and under threat than you peons…”

  19. Since most legislative chambers are already brain-free zones, I’m sure that Sick D1ck Cohen would feel right at home there among his peeps.

    As for guns in public places, I don’t see why there should be one set of rules for the hoi polloi and another for the nobility.

  20. Well if we’re talking about Feinstein’s OMG SCARY PISTOL GRIP MUZZLE DEVICE SHOULDER THING THAT GOES UP ASSAULT WEAPONS!!! presentations then absolutley, no guns in the legislative chambers.

  21. The incident reminds me of the lone caveat in the new Georgia gun regulations, in that it was specifically stated that guns still can’t be brought into court houses or the state capital.

  22. No. I’ll compromise and say that no long arms should be allowed into legislative chambers, except in times of open revolt.

    And what’s more, there should be no blind spots left unseen in legislative chambers, either. There should be CCTV cameras accessible from the ‘net, 24×7, in HD color, with recordings being kept off-site.

    Legislators should be kept as nervous and twitchy as possible. Their every thought should be “Oh God, did someone see that?” followed by “and what are they about to do about it?”

  23. After the Texas capitol put in metal detectors at the entrances, (because some asshole who was stalking a female employee, IIRC, fired some shots there), all of a sudden many of the lobbyists and legislators applied for their CHL. Anyone with a CHL can bypass the lines of visitors waiting to go through the metal detector, so it can be a big timesaver for a busy lobbyist. I believe guns are not allowed in the actual legislative chambers, but they provide lockers for those carrying guns.

    Last time I showed my CHL at the capitol, the DPS trooper jokingly asked, “which one are you planning to shoot, ma’am?” I told him it all depended on how they all behave that day.

  24. Actually, I think all areas within 1 mile of any politician or their immediate family member should be a gun free zone for everybody including government agents, cops, bodyguards, military, politicians, no guns allowed at all by anyone.

  25. A democrat staffer did this under identical circumstances, ie, both were valid Va carry permit holders, both stated possession at capitol security check point was inadvertent.

    the only difference is that the democrat staffer’s firearm was LOADED and this GOP staffer’s firearm was not loaded.

    All charges were dropped on the Dem staffer. Let’s see if there is a double standard with any prosecution of this GOP staffer

  26. Arizona legislature tried to pass a law allowing or at least providing a secure place for firearms that weren’t allowed in public buildings (which I am pretty sure included the State Capitol building) but it was sadly vetoed by the Governor.

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