In the aftermath, Germany this week said it would examine the introduction of additional security measures at its parliament, known as the Bundestag, according to the chamber’s president, Wolfgang Schäuble. Berlin was shaken in August when anti-lockdown demonstrators, including far-right figures, rushed the parliament building and reached its front steps.
In the U.S. Capitol, new measures are being installed to ensure lawmakers’ security. One is the installation of metal detectors at the entrance to the House of Representatives. Some lawmakers, however, are resistant to detectors, even refusing to go through the security measure. One Republican legislator called the new security an “atrocity.”
As of Wednesday, U.S. lawmakers who refuse to pass through newly installed metal detectors at the entrance of the House floor will face fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) imposed the enhanced screening in response to the Capitol riots that occurred as Congress was in the process of affirming the electoral college victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
Guns and other lethal weapons are illegal in the U.S. Capitol, where the typical visitor must pass through metal detectors before entering. A 1967 regulation, however, exempts Congress members from this ban.
Like other countries, security around the U.S. Capitol is designed to handle protests and the possible individual attack on U.S. lawmakers. What shocked Americans and people around the world was unprecedented mass riot.
Metal detectors and other such security features are standard in many of the world’s government buildings, although security for lawmakers themselves is often relaxed. Across capitols in Europe and the United Kingdom, “airport style” security, including metal detectors, is already the norm, said Julian Richards, the director of the Center for Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Buckingham (BUCSIS).
Legislators, however, generally have their own separate entrances or gates, and in practice are able to pass through unhindered.
At the European Parliament, lawmakers have their own door off the main entrance, which allows them to bypass measures like metal detectors. The European Union said it is not planning to increase its security procedures in the wake of the U.S. riots as its measures are already sufficient. There have, however, been incidents, like in 2014, when around 100 pro-Kurdish protesters breached the parliament after a brief similar takeover of the Dutch parliament in The Hague.
There has been a steady increase in security at capitol complexes across Europe in response to a spate of deadly attacks and threats of violence, Richards said. In the 1980s, new measures went up around Westminster following attacks by the Irish Republican Army. More recently, safety has focused on stopping threats like a 2017 attack when an intruder armed with a knife broke through Westminster’s perimeter and killed a police officer.
Other countries have grappled with how to weigh protecting lawmakers with keeping an open door to government for the public. In 2014, an Australian senator brought a fake pipe bomb to a committee meeting to demonstrate weaknesses in security in the country’s Parliament House.
But while many of these increases in security have been about securing lawmakers from the public, in some cases new rules have intended to protect elected officials from one another.
Ukraine in 2018 formally banned members of its parliament from carrying in guns, explosives and other weapons after a member, Nadiya V. Savchenko, came to work bearing a pistol and three hand grenades.
The new legislation barred “explosive materials, ammunition of all types, training or imitation ammunition, flammable liquids or solid substances or fireworks,” which until then had not been specifically prohibited for lawmakers to carry into parliament.
Like in the United States, some Ukrainian lawmakers opposed the rule as a partisan ploy. A few even refused to walk through metal detectors, previously only required of staff members and visitors, but now mandatory for lawmakers as well.
Brawls are fairly commonplace in Ukraine’s parliament. Savchenko said she needed the weapons for self-defense, the New York Times reported. After the law’s passage, she was arrested and her colleagues voted to strip her of immunity.
In 2012, two Pakistani lawmakers were accused of carrying pistols into the country’s parliament, prompting an investigation. Lawmakers there typically must go through security checks before entering the building. A 2019 study found that at least 100 of 342 Pakistani lawmakers owned guns, 50 of whom were from the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which was once the country’s leading party.
As the fallout of the assault on the U.S. Capitol continued to unfold, New Zealand on Wednesday said it would review security at the country’s parliament after early that morning a 31-year-old man entered the area with an ax and smashed glass windows at the main entrance. New Zealand banned assault weapons after the 2019 Christchurch massacre and vowed to keep its government both secure and accessible.
“I am proud that the New Zealand Parliament is one of the most open, accessible parliaments in the world and I very much hope that this continues,” Rafael Gonzalez-Montero, the chief executive of Parliamentary Service, said in a statement after the attack, the Associated Press reported. “Our parliament belongs to the people of New Zealand, and it is incredibly important to our democracy that people are able to visit, and interact with their parliament and elected representatives with ease.”
William Booth in London, Loveday Morris in Berlin and Michael Birnbaum in Riga, Latvia, contributed to this report.