Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said witnessing the shooting attack on House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and four others last week motivated his call for members of Congress to circumvent D.C. gun laws and arm themselves.
Brooks, who was on the playing field when the shooting began last week at the Republican congressional baseball practice, plans to introduce legislation this week to allow members of Congress to carry concealed weapons anywhere in the United States, except the Capitol or events where the president and vice president are present.
Brooks told The Washington Post that he has a concealed-carry permit in Alabama but declined to say whether he carries a weapon because he doesn’t “want the bad guys to know about our defense capabilities.”
Brooks, who took cover in the first-base dugout during the shooting, said that if he had had his pistol he would have fired at the gunman “with a surprise short-range attack.”
“As a consequence of none of us in that dugout having the ability to defend ourselves, that shooter was able to wound three more people,” he said.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) accused Brooks of politicizing the shooting and trying to interfere with local laws passed by elected officials.
“Representative Brooks apparently did not want to be left out as members use last week’s horrific shooting to go after D.C.’s local gun safety laws,” Norton said in a statement.
Brooks said Norton might react differently if she was pinned in a dugout during a shooting.
“Maybe Eleanor Holmes Norton is willing to go down without a fight. I’m not,” he said. “It’s one thing to talk hypothetical, it’s another thing to talk real life. . . . I suspect Eleanor Holmes Norton would have a different opinion if she experienced the kind of situation and frustration that we experienced.”
Brooks’s proposal comes after Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) introduced a bill that would require the District to honor concealed-carry permits from other states, which it currently does not do.
The bill has 21 co-sponsors, all of whom are Republican, including Rep. Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, who on the day of the shooting advocated for lawmakers to be armed.
Asked last week about Loudermilk’s call for lawmakers to carry guns, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said she could not take a position without reviewing the legislation.
“We, of course, with the council of the District of Columbia pass the laws that we think help make D.C. safer and stronger, and that’s going to be our view,” she said at a news conference Thursday. “I don’t have any idea what [Loudermilk’s legislation] is, so I would have to see it first.”
D.C. Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), who is chairman of the judiciary and public safety committee, said the District should be able to make its own laws without interference from Congress.
After the election, Allen led a campaign called Hands Off DC to try to stop members of Congress from overriding D.C. laws.
“It feels like, unfortunately, here they go again,” he said Monday. “The voters of the District of Columbia should be the ones who decide what our gun laws are.”
Allen, who is originally from Birmingham, Ala., “where there’s a healthy respect for firearms,” said, “I’m pretty sure the people of Alabama wouldn’t want us running their laws from here in D.C.”
He noted that the shooting took place in Virginia, where gun laws are less restrictive than in the District. It’s a state where owners can carry their guns openly without special permission and obtain a concealed-carry permit and, as of last summer, where gun permits issued by other states are recognized.
The District also has a concealed-carry permit process, but few people meet the qualifications.
As of June 3, D.C. police approved 125 concealed-carry licenses, including 46 for District residents and 79 for nonresidents, according to police. There were 403 denied concealed-carry applications.
Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.), a freshman and member of the House Freedom Caucus, introduced legislation in March mirroring a bill from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) that would repeal the District’s gun laws and replace them with much looser federal laws.
“Law-abiding citizens from everywhere should be allowed to travel [to the District] without fear,” he said in a text message after declining an interview. “People are ten times more likely to own a gun in Virginia, and ten times more likely to be a victim of a gun crime in D.C.”
Asked last week whether he thinks members of Congress should carry guns, former House majority leader Eric Cantor, the target of multiple death threats while in office, said he had full confidence in his law enforcement team and would not have needed to be armed.
“I think it’s up to the individual if they feel it’s necessary to have protection,” he said.
Cantor was beaten by Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in a summer 2014 primary campaign stunner. Through a spokeswoman, Brat declined to comment.