Politics

Downloadable Guns Would Pose Unique Risk to Capitol, Gainer Says

‘Even the most technologically advanced security cannot neutralize all possible threats,’ Ex-Senate sergeant-at-arms writes

Former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer says not permanently stopping downloadable plastic guns “will increase the challenges of protecting the security of members of Congress, their staffs and visitors to the Capitol.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Updated 3:26 p.m. | The only person to hold both top law enforcement roles at the Capitol says downloadable plastic guns would pose an added challenge of “detection and defense” for those who protect Capitol Hill.

Terrance W. Gainer, who served as Senate sergeant-at-arms for seven years and before that as the chief of the Capitol Police, said he is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, but elected officials must recognize the “unique threat downloadable firearms pose to public safety.”

On Tuesday evening, a Washington State court issued a ruling that temporarily restricts companies from publishing online blueprints for downloadable guns. The guns, which can be 3D-printed in plastic, could evade standard metal detectors aimed at uncovering weapons.

“I know that a failure to permanently stop downloadable guns will increase the challenges of protecting the security of members of Congress, their staff and visitors to the Capitol,” he wrote in a USA Today op-ed published Wednesday.

To enter any building in the Capitol complex, visitors and staff must pass through a screening checkpoint run by Capitol Police, including metal detectors. Visitors must pass through airport-style full-body scanners to enter the House and Senate chambers.

The full-body scanners are designed to identify metallic and non-metallic weapons, explosives, liquids, plastics, ceramics and other potentially hazardous substances, a much broader range of threats than the metal detectors at building entrances.

“Unfortunately, even the most technologically advanced security cannot neutralize all possible threats,” Gainer wrote.

The Capitol Police have “a comprehensive security plan in place and we continuously monitor and assess new and emerging threats,” Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said in an email. The department does not comment on specific methods or resources employed by Capitol Police.

The injunction issued this week will expire Aug. 10, when another hearing on the case is scheduled.

Gainer is urging Congress, the people he used to be in charge of protecting, to take steps to protect themselves by passing legislation to stop downloadable guns from being available online.

Watch: 20 Years Ago, a Deadly Shooting in the Capitol Changed Life on the Hill Forever

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