GOP lawmaker with gun sets off House chamber metal detector

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., said he and his family’s lives have been threatened by someone awaiting trial

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Copyright 2020 Jacquelyn Martin. All rights reserved.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., speaks during a news conference with members of the conservative Freedom Caucus, on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

WASHINGTON – Capitol Police are investigating an incident in which a Republican lawmaker was blocked from entering the House chamber after setting off a metal detector while apparently carrying a concealed gun.

Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., set off the metal detector while trying to enter the chamber Thursday afternoon. The metal detectors were installed after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, which left five people dead, including a Capitol police officer. The incident was witnessed by a reporter from the HuffPost website.

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After setting off the machine, Harris was asked to step aside for further screening. At that time, an officer discovered Harris was carrying a concealed gun on his side, according to the reporter.

The officer sent Harris away, at which point Harris tried to get Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., to take the gun from him. Katko refused, telling Harris he didn’t have a license to carry a gun. Harris eventually left and returned less than 10 minutes later. He once again went through security and did not set off the magnetometer. He was then allowed to enter the House floor.

Harris, in his sixth term representing Maryland's Eastern Shore, issued a statement through his chief of staff, Bryan Shuy.

“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,'' the statement said. "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.''

Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for Capitol Police, said the incident is being investigated.

The public is not allowed to carry guns on Capitol grounds, but members of Congress may keep firearms in their offices or transport them on the Capitol grounds if they are unloaded and securely wrapped. Lawmakers are not allowed to bring guns into either the House or Senate chambers.

Freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., has said she’ll carry a gun in Washington, D.C., which does not allow the open carrying of a firearm. Fellow freshman Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C., told a North Carolina newspaper that he was armed when a mob that supports former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol.

Since the metal detectors were installed last week, most House members have followed police orders and gone through the devices to enter the House chamber, but some Republicans — including Boebert and Harris — initially sidestepped the machines or refused to be checked with wands after they set it off. Capitol Police have now placed desks and velvet ropes near the metal detectors to block anyone from walking around the machines.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has proposed a rule that would fine members who bypass the metal detector $5,000 for their first offense and $10,000 for their second. The fines are not yet in effect, because the House has not adopted the rule.

A spokesman for Cawthorn declined Friday to say where, exactly, the congressman was while armed on Jan. 6.

Cawthorn "practices his 2nd Amendment rights, as well as privileges accorded to him as a member of Congress. Rep. Cawthorn also respects and adheres to instructions from the Capitol Police,'' said spokesman Micah Bock.

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