Sitting ducks in Congress
Public service shouldn’t require sacrificing personal security
Sitting members of Congress should not be sitting ducks. Last week’s shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise and several Republican staff members at a baseball field in suburban Washington revealed them to be exactly that. They can thank the District of Columbia’s excessive and spiteful firearms restrictions. Laws hindering their ability to carry a concealed weapon should be relaxed to enable members of Congress and other law-abiding Washingtonians to protect themselves.
Political rhetoric easily gives way to physical violence, as we have seen, so the moment is right to flush away the mockery of the Constitution in the city where the sacred document is enshrined. Rep. Thomas Massie, Kentucky Republican, has introduced the D.C. Personal Protection Reciprocity Act, which would grant those who have permits to carry a concealed weapon in other states the right to carry their weapon in the District. Mr. Massie takes a common-sense approach to the Second Amendment: “I do not want to extend a special privilege to politicians because the right to keep and bear arms is not a privilege, it is a God-given right protected by our Constitution.”
Mr. Scalise and two others were wounded while Republicans practiced for their annual charity game against congressional Democrats. By happenstance, he was the victim of a deranged, Republican-hating gunman poisoned by the partisan rants and rages of the day. As the majority whip, he is entitled to a security detail, and two Capitol Police officers sprang into action to shoot down the attacker before he could turn the baseball diamond into a killing field. If Mr. Scalise had skipped the early morning practice, the two policemen would have been on duty elsewhere and the baseball squad would have faced assailant James Hodgkinson and his high-powered rifle with nothing but their bats.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk, Georgia Republican, present but unharmed during the shooting, observed that a member of his staff sitting in his car at the field could have pulled out his licensed gun and fired on the assailant — if the incident had occurred back home in Georgia. Like most citizens who travel between the District and nearby Virginia, he was necessarily unarmed.
Gun reciprocity is essential to eliminating a patchwork of regulations stretching across the country that leaves gun owners reluctant to pack a weapon for fear of inadvertently breaking the law while traveling to or through a state. Currently, 41 states have some degree of reciprocity, but without a nationwide agreement, the danger of a mistake punishable by jail time is a risk many won’t take, leaving them vulnerable to the mad and the crazy.
Like other anti-gun jurisdictions, the District, which has more than its share of the mad, the lawless and the criminal, doesn’t prohibit concealed carry, but it requires applicants to reach a high bar to prove the need for a permit. Americans who live elsewhere but travel into the District to work, like members of Congress, had better not count on explaining away an innocent firearms offense in the District. A U.S. Army soldier was once arrested for having mere bullets, but no gun, in his backpack.
Mr. Scalise’s colleagues should take to heart the lesson taught on the ball ground: Public service requires sacrifice, but giving up the security of a sidearm they are entitled to bear at home should not be a requirement for service in Congress.