WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) set off a metal detector in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday afternoon. Upon being asked to step aside for screening, Harris was found to be carrying a concealed gun in his suit coat. Capitol Police are investigating the incident, according to a police spokeswoman.
Harris had been attempting to enter the House chamber when he was stopped at the security checkpoint. After being turned away due to the weapon, Harris requested Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) take the gun, but Katko refused. While Harris has a permit to carry, Katko does not.
Harris left and returned to the security checkpoint a few minutes later, and was able to enter the House floor without setting off the metal detector.
“I was outraged and I was embarrassed,” said Yvette Lewis, chair of the Maryland Democratic Party. “I was embarrassed for the people of the 1st congressional district, and I was embarrassed for our state.”
Harris’ chief of staff, Bryan Shuy, released a statement on Friday on Harris’ behalf.
Because his and his family’s lives have been threatened by someone who has been released awaiting trial, for security reasons, the congressman never confirms whether he nor anyone else he’s with are carrying a firearm for self-defense. As a matter of public record, he has a Maryland Handgun Permit. And the congressman always complies with the House metal detectors and wanding. The Congressman has never carried a firearm on the House floor.
While the public is not allowed to bring firearms onto Capitol grounds, members of Congress are permitted to transport them on Capitol grounds so long as they are unloaded and securely wrapped. Members are also allowed to keep guns in their offices in the same condition. However, legislatures are not permitted to bring guns onto the House or the Senate floors.
“Everyone has the right to defend themselves,” said Lewis. “No one is questioning his right to defend himself. What we are questioning is his lack of judgment and where he chose to take that gun. He knows what the rules are, he knows what the law is, and he decided to defy it anyway?”
Since the metal detectors were installed, some members of Congress — including Harris — initially refused to go through the machines. This, in combination with the news of the concealed firearm, has led some individuals to believe Harris sees himself as being above the law. There are now desks and velvet ropes near the metal detectors to stop people from walking around the machines.
While not in effect yet, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) proposed a rule to fine Congress members who attempt to go around the metal detector $5,000 for their first offense and $10,000 for their second.
This incident with Harris came barely two weeks after he faced criticism from the MD Democratic Party for his behavior before and after the insurrection at the Capitol.
Harris has also recently stated that he will be seeking a seventh term in office in 2022.
This is a developing story. Stay with LocalDVM.com for updates.