Law enforcement officials on Capitol Hill are making it harder for people without congressional identification badges to avoid security checks in the wake of recent arrests for carrying handguns.
On Monday morning, Capitol Police began enforcing a new ID check policy at the House garages. When a car pulls up, officers check for the requisite parking stickers and ask every passenger to show credentials. Any passenger over the age of 18 who is without a congressional ID is required to exit the vehicle prior to its entry into the garage.
House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving announced the change late on Aug. 15 in a memo to members of Congress and staff that was obtained by CQ Roll Call. According to the notice, passengers without ID will be directed to a pedestrian entrance. At those doors, they would be required to empty their pockets and submit to a search involving X-ray machines and magnetometers.
The change is an effort to "tighten security" at the House garages, according to a high-ranking security official who spoke on background about the changes. It comes after two incidents that have cast campus security in a new light.
During a search one month ago, Capitol Police found a 9 mm handgun in the bag of Ryan Shucard, press secretary for Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa. Police arrested Shucard , stopping him from bringing the weapon into the Cannon House Office building.
Five days later, Capitol Police arrested South Carolina pork executive Ronald Prestage at another Cannon door after finding a loaded 9 mm handgun inside an ankle holster in his briefcase.
Before departing for the August recess, members of Congress acknowledged concern about the fact that those who drive into work on the House side are not subject to the same level of security at the more than 100 doors connecting the House garages to office buildings. The change doesn't solve that problem, but it does limit access to the garages.
House Administration Committee leaders, with jurisdiction over day-to-day operations at the Capitol, previously indicated that law enforcement has been working to mitigate the problem. A spokeswoman for the majority on the committee did not respond to requests for comment on the new policy.
“The [United States Capitol Police] continuously works with the Capitol Police Board and our Congressional stakeholders to reassess and modify our security procedures as necessary,” said department spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider in an email to CQ Roll Call about the garage policy.