Staff in Rep. Tom Marino’s office are convinced that Ryan Shucard, the press secretary that arrived at the Cannon House Office building toting a 9 mm handgun on Friday morning, was not planning to harm anyone with the gun.
“No, not at all,” said Bill Tighe, chief of staff for the two-term Pennsylvania Republican, said when asked if staff thought Shucard had ill intentions. Capitol Police also indicated it was an accident, according to Tighe.
Tighe said he was not formally aware that Shucard, a resident of Alexandria, Va., owned a gun. Shucard was hired by Marino’s office in late May. Tighe said he did not know whether Shucard, 26, was registered, trained or permitted to hold a gun in Virginia, where gun laws are less strict than in the District. Similarly, Jason Kalafat, a partner at Price Benowitz LLP who has been hired to represent Shucard in D.C. court, had no comment on his client’s status as a gun owner in Virginia. He said there is no allegation that Shucard had the gun unlawfully, and pointed out that he is not being prosecuted for the federal offense of carrying on Capitol grounds, which carries up to five years in prison.
Kalafat said the difference between gun regulations in D.C. and Virginia creates a “big problem.”
Because the Capitol grounds are federal property, they are not subject to the District’s strict gun laws.
The 2007 arrest of an aide to Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., for carrying a loaded pistol into a Senate office building brought to light a contradiction between District gun laws and regulations on the Capitol grounds.
Members of Congress and designated employees, acting on behalf of their bosses, can bring unloaded guns into the Capitol. Inside the confines of their offices, regulations set by the Capitol Police Board even allow lawmakers to load the guns. However, carrying the guns through D.C. without a gun license would violate local law.
On Saturday, Shucard pleaded not guilty to carrying a pistol outside the home or business, a felony crime in D.C. that is punishable with up to five years in prison.
According to charging documents, Shucard placed his bag on the x-ray belt inside the southeast door of Cannon and Capitol Police saw the Smith & Wesson handgun and magazine inside. The cops immediately stopped the screening process, secured the area — just across the street from the Capitol South Metro Station — and detained Shucard for further investigation.
Inside the bag, police say they found the magazine, containing nine rounds of hollow point ammunition, and the 9 mm handgun. The two items were separate.
Kalafat told CQ Roll Call that Shucard was surprised, but “extremely cooperative” and that he “denied knowing or intending to have a gun with him.”
Shucard is set to appear in court on Aug. 7 for a preliminary hearing. He remains on unpaid leave from Marino’s office.
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