Congressman, Defend Thyself

Many lawmakers have gun permits, but we can’t use them in D.C.

 
 

 
PHOTO: ISTOCK

When Republican lawmakers came under fire during a June 14 baseball practice in Virginia, they were trapped by a tall fence with one exit. Thanks to armed officers guarding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, only five people were wounded.

But although members of the congressional leadership are provided security details, the rest of us have to count on luck. “When congressmen and senators are off the Capitol Hill campus, we are still high-profile targets, but we have zero protection,” Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama told John Lott of the Crime Prevention Research Center.

Mr. Lott, who worked with me on this article, and I have talked to some of the congressmen and staffers who were there during the attack. They uniformly want to change the District of Columbia’s gun-control laws. 

Rep. Steve Pearce of New Mexico described to me how a security officer’s shots put the attacker into a defensive position, causing him to come out from behind a wall to fire before taking cover again. Had the attacker “taken even six steps forward,” Mr. Pearce said, he would have seen several exposed people concealed from his line of sight.

At least five congressmen at the baseball practice have concealed handgun permits in their home states. At least one aide also has a permit. Others may be reluctant to announce publicly that they do, since part of the benefit of carrying a concealed weapon is that potential attackers do not know who is armed. That’s why uniformed police have an almost impossible job stopping terrorist attacks. A uniform is like a neon sign flashing: “I have a gun. Shoot me first.”

In 2015 the Daily Caller surveyed 38 conservative members of Congress, asking whether they held a concealed-carry permit. Thirty declined to answer. Of the eight who did respond, six had permits. Jerry Henry, executive director of Georgia Carry, says that as of last year nine of the 10 Republican congressmen from his state had a concealed-carry permit.

An aide says that when Rep. Barry Loudermilk is speaking at public events in his district, “they always have someone with the congressman who is carrying.” Likewise, when I’m home in Kentucky, my staff and I carry weapons.

But the District of Columbia’s gun regulations meant no one had a permitted, concealed handgun at the congressional baseball practice. Virginia, where the attack occurred, honors permits from any other state. But as Mr. Brooks explained: “My residence is in the District of Columbia, which means that it would have been illegal for me to take my weapon with me to the ballpark—about a 9-mile bike ride—and it would have also been illegal for me to come from Virginia back into D.C. with my weapon.”

Both Rep. Brooks and the Loudermilk aide say they believe the attack could have been ended much earlier. The aide, who asked to be unnamed, has received active-shooter training and remained behind a car 15 to 20 yards from the attacker. He believes he could have shot the attacker from his position and ended the attack “probably four minutes earlier.”

Mr. Brooks believes he was much better-positioned than the two officers guarding Mr. Scalise, who were on the opposite side of the field: “If I had a weapon in my backpack in the dugout, I would have had an opportunity to stop him.”

That’s why I have introduced legislation to allow people with concealed handgun permits from any state to carry their permitted firearms into the District of Columbia. It’s a miracle that only five were wounded at the Republicans’ baseball practice. Next time the results might be even more devastating.

Mr. Massie, a Republican, represents Kentucky’s Fourth Congressional District and is chairman of the Second Amendment Caucus.

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