The United States Capitol Police have opened an investigation into an incident involving Rep. Andrew P. Harris (R-Md.), following reports he entered the U.S. Capitol with a firearm.
HuffPost reported that Harris set off newly installed metal detectors outside the House chamber on Thursday and was stopped by Capitol Police.
One officer motioned to another to indicate that the First District lawmaker had a weapon hidden inside his suit coat, the site reported.
A journalist who witnessed the encounter reported that Harris tried to offload the weapon to a nearby colleague, Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.), but Katko refused to take it, telling Harris he didn’t have “a license.”
HuffPost also heard Harris complain to some fellow members that he had asked his staff to remind him about the screenings and they hadn’t.
Harris then left on the elevators and 10 minutes later returned to the House chamber, the site reported. He placed his cellphone and keys on a desk to the side, did not set off the magnetometer and was allowed to enter the House floor.
In an email on Thursday night, U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki told Maryland Matters, “The USCP is investigating the matter.”
NBC News reported on Thursday that a “Capitol official” who was present “saw a firearm on the person of Rep. Harris and relayed that to his superiors.”
“To be clear, Rep. Harris did not enter the Floor,” the official said.
The metal detectors outside the chamber were ordered put in place by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) after the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. They have become a flashpoint among some Republican members, and they have at times created tension with police.
Harris’ communications team frequently does not respond to requests for comment from reporters and they did not respond to an email from Maryland Matters on Thursday night. But they did release a statement to Fox 45 News in Baltimore, which said:
“Because his and his family’s lives have been threatened by someone who has been released awaiting trial, for security reasons, the Congressman never confirms whether he nor anyone else he’s with are carrying a firearm for self-defense. As a matter of public record, he has a Maryland Handgun Permit. And the congressman always complies with the House metal detectors and wanding. The Congressman has never carried a firearm on the House floor.”
Despite the District of Columbia’s strict gun laws, members of Congress are allowed to carry unloaded weapons in congressional office buildings and on the Capitol grounds, but not in the chamber.
Several GOP members have boasted of carrying weapons wherever they go, prompting calls from Democratic lawmakers for metal detectors to be installed outside the chamber.
Pelosi is reportedly considering fines for members who bypass security checkpoints inside the Capitol.
HuffPost reported on Thursday that Harris “has repeatedly flouted the magnetometers that were installed near the House chamber after the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.”
The incident involving the six-term lawmaker came two weeks after thousands of supporters of former President Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
The siege forced members of the Senate and House and Vice President Mike Pence to flee into secure locations. Five people died in the uprising, including a Capitol police officer.
The attempted coup led to the second impeachment of Trump and an unprecedented increase in security around the building.
Harris is a loyal supporter of President Trump who has spoken frequently about his fear that the government will try to strip citizens of their guns. He is the only Republican in the state’s congressional delegation and has received campaign contributions from the NRA.
Harris was one of nearly 150 GOP lawmakers to vote to block Biden’s win, even after the attempted insurrection. When lawmakers returned to the House chamber to resume their work in the overnight hours of Jan. 7, Harris got into a scuffle on the House floor with Rep. Colin Alred (D-Texas).
Harris’s baseless claims that Biden’s win was marred by fraud has been condemned by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) and led to numerous calls for his resignation.
By Bruce DePuyt