In one of their first acts in power, House Republicans removed the metal detectors outside the House chamber, just days before the second anniversary of the Jan. 6 Capitol attacks.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., installed the magnetometers after the incident. But Democrats faced pushback from House Republicans who argued that the security measures were unnecessary.
Last week, they made good on their promise to remove them. This week they’ll take it a step further.
Republicans on Monday are set to vote on a House Rules Committee package that will remove fines for members of Congress who fail “to comply with unscientific mask mandates and security screenings before entering the House floor.”
The removal of the metal detectors is also symbolic of a new House GOP majority that has been largely antagonistic towards any Democratic measures related to the Capitol attacks.
Here’s what those security changes could mean in the House.
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A mob of former President Donald Trump’s supporters ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, leading to more than 140 officers injured and five deaths. Days after the attack, Pelosi ordered the magnetometers installed outside the entrances of the House chamber.
House Democrats voted in February of last year to fine members $5,000 on the first offense and $10,000 afterward for sidestepping the security screenings. No Republican House member voted for the fines.
Several House Republicans have openly flouted the security changes and dodged the metal detectors either by walking around them or pushing through while setting them off. GOP members including Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich, Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., and Lloyd Smucker, R-Pa., have all been fined for not complying with the security measures.
Last week, on the first day of Congress, Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., celebrated the removal of the metal detectors, telling the New York Post she thought the detectors “should be removed from the Capitol, filled with Tannerite and blown up.”
When asked if she would bring a gun onto the House floor with the removal of the metal detectors, she declined to respond and walked away.
House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., previously signaled his support for removing metal detectors around the floor — a move that conservatives and moderate Republicans supported.
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Two years since Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol police have worked to implement new measures that would prevent another attack. But it does not make the rules for how the House chamber operates.
“Although the requirement for security screening outside the House Chamber is not in the Rules for the 118th Congress, we screen all visitors who come into every Congressional Building,” the Capitol police said in a statement to USA TODAY. “Since January 6, 2021, we have made more than 100 improvements to improve security around the Capitol Complex.”
Visitors to the Capitol are still required to undergo security screening before they can enter. Knives, guns, weapons and razors are all banned items.
Can lawmakers carry firearms in the Capitol?
Yes, but with some caveats.
A 1967 law bans the carrying of firearms on Capitol grounds, but grants an exemption to members of Congress that allows them to carry firearms that are “unloaded and securely wrapped.” But firearms are still prohibited from the House and Senate chambers unless “assigned or approved by the two Sergeants at Arms.”
Not long after the metal detectors were installed outside the House floor, Maryland Republican Rep. Andy Harris set off one of the metal detectors and was found to be carrying a firearm.
Has there been a shooting in the House chamber?
There has been only one shooting in the House chamber, but it wasn’t by a lawmaker who brought a gun onto the House floor.
In 1954, four Puerto Rican nationalists who advocated for the island’s independence, opened fire on lawmakers from the gallery that sits above the House floor, injuring five representatives. All four of the perpetrators were apprehended and later convicted.