WASHINGTON (WJZ) — The U.S. Capitol police agency is investigating whether Maryland Congressman Andy Harris tried to bring a gun onto the House floor amid tightened security at the Capitol.
Harris, Maryland’s lone Republican in Congress, declined WJZ’s request for an interview about the matter. He represents the 1st District, which includes the Eastern Shore and parts of Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties.READ MORE: 'All My Organs Shut Down' | Maryland Man Shares His COVID Survival Story, Says He's Grateful For Second Chance
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) January 22, 2021
An aide issued this statement to WJZ:
“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.”
A reporter for the Huffington Post said he witnessed Congressman Harris set off the magnetometer Thursday and claims after a wanding, an officer found a gun concealed by his suit coat.
The reporter said Harris then tried to give the weapon to New York Congressman John Katko who refused it saying he did not have a license. Harris, he said, then left in an elevator and returned minutes later, going through security with no issue.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) had something on him. I believe it was a gun because a cop made a side holster motion to another cop. They refuse to let him in.
He goes toward the elevators, asks a member to take something from him, the member says he doesn’t have a license.
— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) January 21, 2021
Security measures have ramped up after the January 6th riot, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump stormed inside the building, terrorizing lawmakers.READ MORE: 2 Charles County Deputies Shot In Police-Involved Shooting, Suspect Dead
But some in Congress have balked at metal detectors placed outside the House chamber and the rule banning members of Congress from bringing guns inside.
Fellow representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told CNN she does not feel safe after the incident.
“You are endangering the lives of members of Congress, and it is absolutely outrageous that we even have to have this conversation,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
She noted “any responsible gun owner knows you don’t hand off your gun to another individual” and questioned, “why does a member of Congress need to sneak a gun onto the House floor?”
Ocasio-Cortez called the alleged action “irresponsible. It is reckless, but beyond that it is in violation of rules. You are openly disobeying the rules we have established as a community.“
In an interview with WJZ the day after the riot, Harris praised Capitol Police but raised doubts about whether Trump supporters were behind the deadly violence.
“I think there were President [Trump] supporters inside the Capitol. I think we have to wait and see whether the people who were violent, the people who were breaking the windows, were they the president’s supporters? Were they outside agitators? I don’t know. Everyone wants to come to the conclusion that the president’s supporters turned violent,” Harris said on January 7th. He also said, “This idea that somehow the president called for violence in any way, shape or form is just not true.”
Harris was in the Capitol as the insurrection unfolded and denounced the violence. “The Capitol Police take great care of us. They’re true professionals. I never felt worried or concerned.”
Lawmakers are allowed to have firearms on the Capitol grounds and in their offices—just not in the House and Senate chambers. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has proposed a $5,000 fine for a first offense, but that new penalty has not yet been approved.
On Friday, she told fellow Democrats, “When we return to session, we will pass a rule change mandating fines for members who refuse to follow new screening protocols for the House chamber. It is sad that this step is necessary but the disrespectful and dangerous refusal of some Republican members to adhere to basic safety precautions for our Congressional community including our Capitol Police is unacceptable,” Pelosi wrote.
Representative Harris was involved in another incident on January 6 described as a “scuffle” over certifying election results.
“I asked for one of the Democrat’s words to be taken down—to be stricken from the record—when he called Republicans liars,” Harris recalled the following day.
He insisted there was no scuffle—saying it was “reported completely incorrectly.”MORE NEWS: Maryland Still Feeling Effects of Colonial Pipeline Hack
“You can’t have unity when you call your political opponents liars on the floor of the House,” Harris said.