Congressmen "Packing Heat" is a Hot-button Issue
By Andrew Kaake '14 and Shannon McKenna '12
On Jan. 9, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 17 others were gunned down at a meet-and-greet at an Arizona shopping center. In this tragic event, six lives were lost, ended with a bullet. However, the focus has been put on Congresswoman Giffords, the probable target of the gunman, because of the danger that is faced by the men and women that represent our country. How can we expect our federal representatives to effectively serve the United States when they must worry about their safety as they make a simple visit to their constituents? The answer, according to one Representative, is looser gun laws for congressmen.

Rep. Louis Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, has recently publicized his intention to draft a bill allowing members of the U.S. Congress to carry concealed weapons within the city limits of Washington, D.C., as well as on the floor of the U.S. Capitol. Gohmert told The Hill, “There is a rash of legislation further infringing on Second Amendment rights that has been unwisely proffered in the wake of events in Tucson.” Gun control, he claims, is not the answer to criminals that are carrying firearms. Instead, he believes that each person should have the opportunity and responsibility to defend themselves by carrying weapons, a right delineated in the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

Is allowing members of Congress to “pack heat” the best response to the shootings in Arizona? First, we must note that the D.C. concealed weapon ban is very apparently unconstitutional. The ban restricts the average citizen’s access to a weapon, while the criminals are more than willing to procure and utilize the banned firearms. This doesn’t keep citizens or congressmen safe, but rather endangers them. Congressmen should most definitely be allowed to have weapons on their person in the city where they work; on the other hand, so should the rest of the citizens of Washington, D.C. There are only two ways to ensure security and equality in the realm of weapons, large or small: give everyone a gun, or take everyone’s guns away. Since the Constitution enumerates the former as a basic right of the United States citizen, the latter is not an option.

Still, the idea of legitimizing the presence of deadly force, in abundance, on the floor of Congress is a frightening thought. This is the same congress that has earned infamy for brawling during legislative sessions. Anytime that hundreds of people of differing opinions are forced to come to accordance through debate, tempers can start to flare. The presence of weapons only serves to further increase the volatility of this atmosphere. Granted, even if the congressmen were men of peace, how would the environment and safety be affected if they all knew that the man sitting three feet from them had loaded firearms? In addition, such a privilege may set a precedent for other men and women of importance in governance, allowing judges or lawyers or press secretaries to carry guns to every meeting they attend. Clearly, only allowing congressmen to possess concealed weapons in a close, tense space is a bad idea.

On the other hand, letting congressmen defend themselves would be a wonderful way to save taxpayer money. Currently, the most “important” members of Congress are provided with security details, paid out of the government treasury. They should be given the same responsibility of self-protection that is afforded to every other American. It is not the duty of the federal government to place a higher value on the lives of those who are directly linked to it, but to provide for the common welfare. This is not accomplished by legalizing firearms solely for congressmen, but for citizens at-large as well.

What, then, is to be done? To start with, public gun bans should be revoked, as per the United States Constitution. However, it would be irresponsible to do anything but disallow their presence in the private halls of the Capitol building. Guns may be used to protect, but may also be the agent by which violence is incited. Even if congressmen were allowed to carry weapons, though, there is no guarantee of safety. Would Congresswoman Giffords still be in the emergency room if she had a gun on her person? Speculation yields no answer, but the best bet for the safety of any individual in a situation of attack by a gunman is for every person to be prepared to defend themselves and other citizens from those who would abuse their sovereign right to bear arms.

Issue 12, Submitted 2011-01-26 03:51:36