Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Capitol Police

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Gun grabbers who run our nation’s capitol flew into a panic last week when a photo surfaced of Representative Ken Buck (R-Colo.) and Representative Trey Gowdy (R-S.C) holding an AR-15 rifle in Rep. Buck’s Capitol Hill office.

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the United States and the one displayed in the photo was both trigger-locked and missing the bolt carrier group necessary for the firearm to operate.

Still, the photo raised enough irrational public safety concerns that the D.C. Attorney General’s Office referred the picture to the Metropolitan Police Department for further investigation.

In referring the photo to Metro Police, the AG’s office – presumably experts in the law and its application to the facts at hand – demonstrated their ignorance of the laws regarding firearms on Capitol grounds.

That’s because federal law, not D.C. law, governs the Capitol grounds (including Rep. Buck’s office) and that the federal rules regarding the possession of firearms by members of Congress are clear. Federal law generally provides that

“[a]n individual or group of individuals…except as authorized by regulations prescribed by the Capitol Police Board…may not carry on or have readily accessible to any individual on the Grounds or in any of the Capitol Buildings a firearm…”

However, there is an exemption that applies to “any act performed in the lawful discharge of official duties by…a Member of Congress…

“The Capitol Police Board regulations implementing this statute state, “[A]ny member of Congress” is eligible under the regulation to “maintain[] firearms within the confines of his [or her] office,” as well as to “transport[] within the Capitol grounds firearms unloaded and securely wrapped.”

Ergo, Reps. Buck and Gowdy were well within their rights to possess the AR-15 rifle when they took the photo.

And for those who might argue that Rep. Buck had to pass through D.C. with his firearm in hand to get to his Capitol Hill office and therefore broke D.C. law by doing so are reminded that the movement of firearms from one place where the firearm is legal to another place where it is legal is protected under both federal and D.C. law.

Congress passed The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 (“FOPA”) to cover Congressmen like Rep. Buck and Rep. Gowdy. The NRA Institute for Legislative Action writing about the incident noted:

“Where a lawful gun owner can lawfully possess and carry a firearm in both the origin and destination of a journey, the gun owner may lawfully pass through any intervening jurisdiction, notwithstanding its restrictive gun laws, as long as the gun owner stores the firearm in compliance with FOPA during transportation.

The D.C. Code contains a similar transportation provision, of which the D.C. Attorney General’s Office is hopefully aware.”

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The American people have been led to believe that the U.S. Capitol is the most secure airspace in the country especially following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the nation that almost took out the White House and Congress – and they couldn’t be more wrong.

Proof was supplied on Wednesday when a Florida man used remote control to fly a gyrocopter – capable of carrying a pilot – from the Lincoln Memorial at one end of the Capitol Mall to the other end before landing the craft on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

It could have been loaded with explosives, deadly pathogens or even nuclear material but not this time. Rather, it carried 535 letters protesting campaign finance laws addressed to every member of Congress.

And while some might describe the stunt as an effective way to bring attention to a weighty public issue, the Capitol police, Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation and clandestine security forces weren’t impressed.

Upon arrival at the scene, Capitol Police arrested Florida resident Doug Hughes while the Capitol Police bomb squad inspected the aircraft declaring it harmless. Authorities removed the craft from the Capitol grounds to a secure location.

In a statement shortly after the incident, the Capitol Police said “the U.S. Capitol Police continues to investigate with one person detained and temporary street closures in the immediate area,”

According to Ben Montgomery reporting for the Tampa Bay Times, Hughes, who works for the U.S. Post Office, transported his gyrocopter from Florida to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania where it took flight at noon landing at the Capitol building about 90 minutes later. Hughes protest letters read in part:

“I’m demanding reform and declaring a voter’s rebellion in a manner consistent with Jefferson’s description of rights in the Declaration of Independence”…”As a member of Congress, you have three options. You may pretend corruption does not exist. You may pretend to oppose corruption while you sabotage reform. You may actively participate in real reform.”

Hughes did not conduct his protest without warning. Reports indicate that Hughes notified the U.S. Secret Service of his plan and was questioned about it by service agents last year. Hughes added:

“I don’t believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 61-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle”…”I don’t have any defense, okay, but I don’t believe that anybody wants to personally take responsibility for the fallout.”

The Capitol Police is leading the investigation with the assistance of the FBI who will carry out a search of Hughes’ home outside of Tampa.

Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement that it is working to investigate the incident. According to airspace security rules that govern the National Capitol Area, private aircraft flights are barred without prior coordination and permission from the FAA that was not obtained in this instance.


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