Updated 6:11 p.m. | Metal detectors and X-ray machines at the southeast door of the Cannon House Office Building stopped Capitol Hill press secretary Ryan Shucard from allegedly carrying a 9 mm handgun and magazine to work on Friday.
Shucard, a staffer in the office of Rep. Tom Marino, R-Pa., was arrested by Capitol Police and charged with carrying a pistol without a license. Shucard could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the felony, according to Bill Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, which will review the case.
Opponents of congressional efforts to wipe out the District's gun laws seized on the arrest as an example of hypocrisy, while members of the Capitol Hill community pondered what could have happened if Shucard entered Cannon via the building's garage. Drivers are screened at mechanical barricades surrounding the campus and, after parking, can exit the camera-monitored garage into the basement level of the House office buildings. Shucard would perhaps not have been subject to a metal detector search if he were driving to campus, a source with knowledge of security operations pointed out Friday. Similar concerns were raised by Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., one month after the Navy Yard shooting last year in Southeast D.C.
This isn't the first time a member or staffer has been caught up in a weapons-related incident on campus. In March 2007, Phillip Thompson, an aide to then-Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., was arrested on felony charges for carrying his boss’s loaded handgun into the Russell Senate Office Building. Prosecutors ended up dropping the case.
While not a campus incident, former Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., made headlines in 2004 for carrying a gun to an airport. Hostettler pleaded guilty in August 2004 to carrying a loaded semiautomatic handgun to a security checkpoint in Louisville's airport. He was given a 60-day suspended sentence. He won re-election that year.
Spokespeople for the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over day-to-day operations of the Capitol campus, did not share any plans to review the policy when asked about gun safety measures. The committee does not comment publicly on security procedures, spokeswoman Erin Sayago said in an email to CQ Roll Call.
Gregory Abbott, a spokesman for Pennsylvania Democrat Robert A. Brady, the panel's ranking member, said he did not have a comment.
House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving also declined to comment on security-related inquiries.
"Congress likes to talk about loosening gun laws, but when it comes to their own work places, they're not seriously going to do it," said D.C. Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss, a Democrat who is not formally recognized as a member of Congress.
Strauss, who has been fighting a House appropriations rider that critics say could make D.C. one of the most permissive gun jurisdictions in the nation, said members of Congress "clearly have two sets of rules — one for themselves and one for us."
The sponsor of the House amendment, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., did not comment on questions related to Shucard and campus gun policy. Neither did the office of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has expressed interest in repealing D.C. gun laws in the Senate.
"What Rep. Massie apparently intended was to keep the D.C. government, including the Metropolitan Police Department, from enforcing local laws that prohibit the private sale of guns without background checks; the carrying of guns, openly or concealed, on the streets of the nation’s capital; the purchase of guns with no waiting period; the purchase of an unlimited number of guns in one day; the possession of assault weapons, including .50 caliber sniper rifles; and the possession of magazines holding an unlimited number of bullets," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said Thursday. "Making a big city, which is also the nation’s capital, and a prime terrorist target, one of the most permissive gun jurisdiction in the country would be madness."
Even if the Massie amendment were enacted and D.C. couldn’t enforce its own laws, there is a separate federal offense for carrying on Capitol grounds that also carries up to five years in prison.
On Friday, Norton tweaked Massie in a statement that cheekily dared the Kentucky Republican to go even further in his efforts to loosen gun safety laws. "When the media challenged Rep. Massie about imposing his federal amendment on a local jurisdiction, such as the District of Columbia, he said that he wants to ‘restore gun rights anywhere I can.’ Well, here is a federal law of which he has direct jurisdiction over,” Norton said. “If Rep. Massie is true to his word that he wants to ‘restore gun rights anywhere he can,’ we should expect an amendment close to home that would permit the general public, like the staffer with the gun, to bring their weapons into the Capitol.”
Whether Shucard holds a gun license was not immediately clear because information on his residency was not available from the Capitol Police. The Colorado native previously worked for Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., from 2011 to 2013, and subsequently worked for DDC Advocacy and the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries before joining Marino's staff in May. Shucard attended Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., from 2002 to 2006.
He was quoted in a 2003 Newsweek article talking about his father, a police officer who responded to the massacre on April 20, 1999, when two teenage gunmen killed 13 people.
On Friday, Shucard was transported to a cell block in downtown Washington after being processed at Capitol Police headquarters. He will stay in police custody overnight and was scheduled to appear in court on Saturday, according to Leah Gurowitz, spokeswoman for D.C. courts.
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