On Monday, the North Coast’s own U.S. Congressman, Rep. Jared Huffman, introduced a bill with Rep. Jackie Speier (D- Hillsborough) that would prevent members of Congress from bringing firearms onto Capitol grounds. 

Huffman has been sounding off on social media about this issue in recent weeks, calling attention to the incendiary rhetoric of a few gun-loving colleagues on the other side of the aisle. 

For example, he recently retweeted a message from Louisiana Rep. Clay Higgins that referred to Joe Biden’s election as the culmination of a “conspiracy to dismantle America.”

“Folks,” Huffman wrote above the retweet, “under current House rules, this guy is allowed to have assault weapons in the United States Capitol. He’s allowed to bypass security and do whatever he wants with his guns, unlike everyone else in the Capitol.”

Higgins, who has spoken at anti-government militia group rallies, remains a reserve law enforcement officer despite allegations from his former chief that he resigned from the Opelousas Police Department to avoid facing discipline for striking a suspect in handcuffs and lying during an internal investigation. In September, responding to protests over the police shooting death of Trayford Pellerin, Higgins issued a warning on Facebook, threatening to kill protesters who showed up with guns:

Look, fair warning.

If this shows up we’ll consider the armed presence a real threat. We being We, the People, of Louisiana.

One way ticket fellas.

Have your affairs in order.

Me?… I wouldn’t even spill my beer. I’d drop any 10 of you where you stand.

The post was removed from Facebook, and according to local news station KATC Higgins responded by doubling down. 

“America is being manipulated into a new era of government control,” he wrote. “Your liberty is being threatened from within. Welcome to the front lines, Ladies and Gentlemen. I suggest you get your mind right. I’ll advise when it’s time to gear up, mount up, and roll out.”

Huffman also recently called attention to freshmen Congress member Lauren Boebert of Colorado, who campaigned with a handgun strapped to her hip and plans to bring that Glock pistol onto Capitol grounds. She and her husband own a gun-themed restaurant called Shooters Grill, located in the town of Rifle, Colo. Hill Reporter notes, “[Boebert] and the waitstaff all openly carry firearms while serving dishes called ‘Guac 9’ and ‘Ballistic Chicken.’”

In a Nov. 30 Facebook post, Huffman announced his intention to pursue repeal of the 53-year-old rule that exempts members of Congress from the firearm ban at the Capitol. He said the rule was inspired by “race riots” in Washington, D.C., adding, “Members, mostly white men, were afraid and wanted to have their own guns just in case.”

His post continued:

Today, the Capitol is one of the most fortified and secure places on Earth, including heavily armed, specially trained Capitol Police all over the place. Even the most paranoid member of Congress could not justify why they need guns at work. Yet some members insist on it. And the ones who are loudest about it always seem to be the most brazen and reckless — the ones most likely to cause an accident or something worse. 

Now think about everyone who is gathered in the House Chamber during a State of the Union Address or a speech by a foreign leader to a joint session of Congress. Imagine your favorite unhinged members of Congress sitting there with guns. Maybe one of the new GOP members who subscribes to the Q-Anon conspiracy theory and believes Trump’s lies about election fraud. Maybe one of the members who talks rapturously about carrying out violent biblical prophecies. This isn’t the plot of a Tom Clancy novel; it’s a very real security problem and a ticking bomb that nobody wants to think or talk about. …

Huffman said he has been quietly pushing the Capitol Police Board to close the loophole for the past two years, with no real progress. “It is just a matter of time before an unspeakable tragedy happens, and I prefer to prevent it,” he wrote.

His cosponsor of the bill, dubbed the No Congressional Gun Loophole Act, knows all about unspeakable tragedy. Speier worked as an aide to Rep. Leo Ryan and in 1978 accompanied him on a fact-finding mission to Jonestown, Guyana, investigating allegations of human rights abuses by Jim Jones and his disciples in the Peoples Temple. 

In the ambush that set off the infamous Jonestown Massacre, Speier was struck by five bullets and left for dead on a jungle airstrip, where she waited 22 hours for help. Ryan was among the five people killed in the attack. That same day, more than 900 cult members committed suicide or were murdered at the Peoples Temple compound.

Speier, who still carries two bullets in her body from the incident, has said that the experience “absolutely molded my philosophy and my zest for work and for life.”

Here’s a press release from Huffman’s office, issued Monday:

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and Representative Jackie Speier (D- Hillsborough) introduced the No Congressional Gun Loophole Act, which would exclude Members of Congress from the Capitol Police Board’s exemption for firearms on Capitol Grounds. While in the Capitol and House office buildings, the legislation would explicitly prevent Members from carrying firearms, nullifying the Capitol Police Board regulations that allow this, and would require Members of Congress to comply with District of Columbia gun safety and registration requirements. Currently, the over-50-year-old regulation exempts Members of Congress from the firearm rules that apply to everyone else who visits or works at the U.S. Capitol.

“Threats of political violence are on the rise, and it makes all of us less safe if Members of Congress and their staff don’t have to comply with gun safety standards,” said Rep. Huffman. “Members should not be above the law. These outdated and dangerous rules, that apply to everyone else who visits and works in the halls of Congress, must be modernized for everyone’s safety.”

“As a survivor of gun violence, I know what it’s like to battle for your life after being shot five times and left for dead. And statistics show that accidents happen when there are firearms around. The existing exemption for Representatives increases the risk of gun violence for Members, staff, and the public. It’s long past time we close the Member loophole and protect all who enter the Capitol complex,” Rep. Speier said.

This bill follows a recent letter to House leadership led by Rep. Huffman requesting a change in House Rules for the 117th Congress to ensure that Members of Congress are held to the same firearm safety rules as the public while they are on Capitol grounds. These actions were catalyzed by escalating rhetoric and threats of political violence, as well as increased attention to the current rules during Freshmen Member Orientation following the 2020 election. Currently, Members of Congress are exempt from the firearms prohibition in 40 U.S.C. § 5104 under the Capitol Police Board’s regulations.

Huffman and Speier were joined in this legislation by Representatives André D. Carson (D-IN) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).