Some members of the House Natural Resources Committee could be packing heat when they gather in the new session of Congress.
The panel on Wednesday dropped a rule it adopted in 2021, when Democrats were in the majority, that expressly prohibited its members from bringing firearms into their hearing room.
The committee, a common stage for passionate disagreement, sparred over firearm training and personal safety during an organizing session at which its assignment was to adopt rules for how it will conduct business. It eventually approved the rules package by a party-line vote of 24-14 — excluding the prohibition on firearms.
Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., sought to reinsert the provision, included in the rules for the 117th Congress, that prohibited carrying a firearm or other dangerous weapon except under narrow circumstances, such as active-duty law enforcement.
“We have too many members who have incited and advocated for armed political violence. That is really unfortunate, but that is just a fact,” Huffman said.
Huffman added that he believed some members of the committee have “openly fetishized guns and violence,” pointing to the censure and removal of Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from his committees last Congress after he posted an animated video that depicted him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Gosar was reinstated to the committee after Republicans retook the majority, while Ocasio-Cortez joined the panel this year.
Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., referred to the proposal as an “anti-member safety amendment” and listed past incidents of political violence.
“We don’t walk around with Capitol Police officers. Not all of us hired personal security,” Boebert said. “Most of us have to take that personal responsibility and be our own security, when we can.”
Boebert also questioned whether Huffman was attempting to generate donations with his amendment and brought out a poster with a picture of Huffman in a tin foil hat, which he apparently wore when the committee organized in 2021 to express his view of members who argued that they needed to carry a gun while conducting the people’s business.
While a 1967 law bans civilians from carrying guns on Capitol grounds, it carves out an exception allowing lawmakers to keep firearms in their offices. Under the law, guns are expressly prohibited only in the House and Senate chambers and certain adjoining areas.
When asked whether House rules prohibit members from bringing firearms into the committee room, Chairman Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., said it was subject matter for the House Administration Committee and he opposed the gun prohibition.
“No other committee has this restriction in place,” said Westerman. “It was only put in place in this committee in the last Congress.”
Ocasio-Cortez said Westerman’s stance on the matter was ambiguous and asked that if members were responsible for their own safety they should also be “pursuing legal avenues in order to protect ourselves.” Westerman said that also would be a concern for the House Administration Committee.
Huffman questioned how many committee members felt they needed to carry a firearm into the committee hearing room. Both Boebert and Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., said they felt they needed to, while others objected to Huffman’s question. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., said he hoped to “keep the bad guys guessing.”
Ranking member Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., offered a different kind of amendment. It would have required the majority to consult with the ranking member prior to issuing a subpoena. Grijalva said the amendment ensured bipartisan cooperation when it was in place last Congress, a comment that drew protests from his Republican colleagues before they voted it down.
“I don’t know who you all are kidding — this committee is one of the most partisan committees in Congress,” said Rep. Garret Graves, R-La.