With at least 13 confirmed dead and law enforcement still chasing leads on the motive behind the attacks, as well as how many attackers were involved, Gainer said he was taking no chances, particularly in light of other mass shootings over the past few years.
“I delayed the lockdown while gathering facts. At first this looked like a lone shooter, all the earmarks of some type of workplace violence or isolated vengeance. The reasons for the different approaches by the House and Senate sergeant-at-arms are varied, but in the end [were] judgment calls. My decision was based on participating in reviews of shootings at Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colo., as well as the bombings in Boston. I have spent considerable time with the heads of those agencies. We had direct discussions with [D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier.] I elected to err on the side of caution. The only harm was inconvenience to staff, members and visitors. I hope this helps,” Gainer told CQ Roll Call.
Gainer partially lifted the lockdown shortly after 4 p.m.
Still, the dissonance between House and Senate procedures, as well as the delay in the lockdown, made for a confusing afternoon.
For one, even though Gainer sent earlier email updates on the shooting to staff, his order to shelter in place was not communicated until several hours after the shooting occurred.
For another, the enhanced security posture of the Capitol Police signaled that precautions were being taken, even as the House side did not restrict visitor access or recommend a shelter-in-place and the CVC continued to show tourists around.
“We’ve beefed up our presence today,” said Capitol Police spokesman Officer Shennell Antrobus, saying officers were donning bulletproof vests and helmets while armored vehicles were rolled out.
Asked whether screening procedures would change at Capitol building entrances, Antrobus said he was not aware of anything specific, but he added, “I think the thing is we’ve always been very, very careful when we screen individuals, so we’re continuing our strict security.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.