Washington, DC – A controversy erupted on Tuesday evening in U.S. Capitol over the installation of metal detectors at the entrance to the House chamber.
The metal detectors were set up on Jan. 12 for the purpose of screening everyone who entered the House chamber after lawmakers complained they had feared for their lives during the Capitol riot a week earlier, according to The Hill.
“To ensure compliance with Capitol Police Board regulations concerning firearms and incendiary devices, as well as to provide a safe and secure environment in which to conduct legislative business, effective immediately, all persons, including Members, are required [to] undergo security screening when entering the House chamber,” Acting House Sergeant-at-Arms Timothy Blodgett wrote in a notice announcing the installation.
In the past, members of Congress have been excused from passing through metal detectors at the main entrances to the Capitol building.
The new metal detectors were installed at select entrances to the House chamber, The Hill reported.
Blodgett warned in his announcement that “failure to complete screening or the carrying of prohibited items could result in denial of access to the Chamber.”
Numerous Republican lawmakers called the metal detectors unnecessary and many of them skipped going through them, according to The Hill.
Some questioned the motives behind the metal detectors and said the security measure at the entrance to the House chamber was done to prevent some GOP lawmakers from casting their votes.
“They’re impeding the ability of members to come and vote,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) complained and pointed out there were already metal detectors through the Capitol complex, The Hill reported.
“They were strictly designed to impede the ability for members to come and vote. This is our job. This was never discussed by anybody, you don’t make a major change like this,” Scalise said.
Freshman U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert (R-Colorado) was one of the most outspoken critics of the new security measure, KUSA reported.
NBC News reported that Boebert was seen refusing to comply with Capitol Police commands after she set off the metal detectors on Tuesday evening.
Boebert walked through with her bag which set off the mags. She refused to offer the bag over to be searched and is now in a standoff with Cap Police.
— Ryan Nobles (@ryanobles) January 13, 2021
Boebert eventually made it into the House chamber but it wasn’t known if she had ultimately permitted officers to search her bag.
She posted to Twitter defending her actions once she made it into the room.
I am legally permitted to carry my firearm in Washington, D.C. and within the Capitol complex.
Metal detectors outside of the House would not have stopped the violence we saw last week — it’s just another political stunt by Speaker Pelosi.
— Rep. Lauren Boebert (@RepBoebert) January 13, 2021
Boebert, 33, established reputation for herself as a Glock-wearing gun activist and was elected to represent conservative western Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District after defeating a five-term Republican incumbent, NBC News reported.
The freshman congresswoman owns a restaurant called Shooters Grill in Rifle, Colorado and ran on a pro-gun campaign platform.
In November, two congressional officials told NBC News that when Boebert was on Capitol grounds for a freshman orientation she asked the U.S. Capitol Police for permission to carry her weapon on the grounds.
U.S. Capitol Police Spokeswoman Eva Malecki did not respond to NBC News’ request for confirmation of Boebert’s request at the time, nor would the police reveal how many members of Congress were packing at work.
Decades-old congressional regulations allow the practice with some limitations, but the public is barred from carrying guns on the grounds, in the Capitol, or in congressional office buildings.
“This was a private discussion and inquiry about what the rules are, and as a result the Congresswoman-Elect won’t be going on the record,” Boebert aide Laura Carno told NBC News in an email.
The police department also didn’t answer that question when it was asked by Democrats on the House Committee on Administration in 2018.
Officials responded to the committee in writing at the time that they’ve “been made aware” of some members asking about carrying weapons; however, “there is no standing requirement” for congressmen and senators to notify U.S. Capitol police when they’re carrying on the grounds, NBC News reported.
The rules require members to safely store their weapons but “that responsibility resides with the Member,” according to U.S. Capitol Police officials.
The 1967 regulation specifically says no federal or DC law “shall prohibit any Member of Congress from maintaining firearms within the confines of his office” or “from transporting within Capitol grounds firearms unloaded and securely wrapped,” NBC News reported.
Lawmakers may not bring their weapons into the House or Senate chambers, but aides may carry their guns around for them on the grounds of the Capitol.
The regulation was initially adopted after the race riots in DC in the summer of 1967, NBC News reported.
Multiple reporters staked out the new metal detectors on Wednesday to see which GOP lawmakers were, and which were not, complying with Capitol Police requests and following the rules.
This is insanity pic.twitter.com/lvyFD9Uqkj
— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) January 13, 2021
Numerous Republican lawmakers either stepped around the metal detectors and kept going, or went through the device but didn’t stop to be checked by Capitol Police after they set it off, KUSA reported.
“You can’t stop me. I’m on my way to a vote,” U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert told officers as he breezed by them.
Rep. Rodney Davis told Mullin not to shout at Capitol Police, and he said: “This is not their fault, they’re doing their job.”
But Davis, who is the top Republican on House Admin, told me: “I’m pissed” that the mags have gone up without any consultation.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 13, 2021
Democratic lawmakers complained about the Republicans’ behavior and chastised them for whining about the inconvenience.
There is an active insurrection occurring in your country. The 60 second inconvenience of walking through a metal detector is not the most important thing right now.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 13, 2021
However, it did not appear that anyone was tracking which Democratic lawmakers had also chosen to breach the new protocol, KUSA reported.