— Congressman Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) April 16, 2015
Nothing says friendly politics like two grinning congressmen holding a flag-painted AR-15 together. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO) tweeted a photo earlier this month of himself and Rep. Trey Gowdy posing with the popular rifle — which is illegal to carry under local D.C. law.
Though illegal for the general public to bring a gun into the U.S. Capitol, it’s not for Buck because he is a member of Congress, authorities say.
Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Capitol Police, said members of Congress “may maintain firearms within the confines of their office.” Not only that, Schneider said, members “and any employee or agent of any Member of Congress may transport” weapons within the Capitol grounds as long as the “firearms are unloaded and securely wrapped.”
In an interview Tuesday, Buck, a House freshman, said he sought approval from numerous authorities: “I went to the Ethics Committee; I got permission to accept the gift” from a business. “I went to Capitol Hill police; I got permission to bring it into my office. They went to the D.C. police; they got permission for me to transport it into the District. I went to TSA, and followed all of the regulations in getting it onto the plane and getting it here.”
Buck said the gun not only was unloaded and carrying a trigger lock, but that the bolt carrier assembly — necessary to fire the weapon — was removed before it came to Washington.
“Putting a trigger lock on an inoperable gun is like putting a chastity belt on a eunuch,” Buck said. “The only dangerous thing about that gun is if someone took it off the wall and hit somebody else over the head with it.”
Gowdy (R-S.C.) said in an interview that the photo was Buck’s idea: “Ken asked me to stop by his office, and now you and I are having this conversation.”
Gowdy is, like Buck, a former federal and state prosecutor. “If I messed up,” he said, “I’ll be in trouble just like anybody else ought to be in trouble.”
David Benowitz, a defense attorney in D.C. who handles gun cases, said federal law allows people to transport secured weapons from one place where they’re allowed to another place they’re allowed, even if going through an area where they’re restricted.
That would mean Buck was safe carrying the gun through the District to his office on Capitol Hill.
The Metropolitan Police Department referred all questions to Capitol Police and would not say whether a AR-15 without a bolt carrier is legal on District property
Buck said the wanted to have the rifle in his office as a symbol of his “belief in the Bill of Rights.” But he said he had no plans, like some of his House colleagues have had, to introduce legislation easing gun laws in the District.
“I think that if people want to live in D.C. and want to be unarmed and want to be subject to become victims of crime as result of not being able to defend themselves, that’s their business,” he said. “I live in Colorado; we respect the Second Amendment and we’re allowed to protect ourselves.”
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.