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Do The Capitol’s Sergeants-at-Arms Carry Guns?

McClatchy Tribune News Service National News

Do The Capitol’s Sergeants-at-Arms Carry Guns?


By Hannah Hess, CQ Roll Call (MCT)

Members of the Canadian Parliament are praising as a hero House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers, a former police superintendent, for his reported role in taking down the gunman who entered the building. Capitol Hill may be wondering if its own sergeants-at-arms usually pack heat.

“I didn’t carry it all the time,”former Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance W. Gainer said on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal Thursday morning. “I had it close at hand in a locked compartment.”

Gainer, who served as chief of the Capitol Police before his seven-year gig in the Senate, said he frequently relied on the uniformed officers of the department. “We have concentric circles of security around here and so they are the first line of defense, but as the chief law enforcement officer, I was armed when I needed to be or thought it was appropriate,” he said.

House Sergeant-at-Arms Paul D. Irving also is armed while on duty, he has said in previous conversations with CQ Roll Call about securing the chamber. Irving, a Secret Service alumnus, is responsible for maintaining order in the House side of the complex and implementing policies related to the safety and security of members.

It’s unclear if the same policy applies on the other side of the chamber, where the sergeant-at-arms plays both security and administrative roles. (The House elects a separate chief administrative officer.)

Unique among sergeants-at-arms in the post-9/11 era, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Drew Willison does not have a law enforcement background. As Gainer’s former deputy and chief operating officer for the SAA, Willison brought a city manager’s touch to the role when he took over in May. His deputy is Michael Stenger, who spent 35 years in the Secret Service and rose to No. 3 in the organization before joining SAA in 2011.

The office did not immediately respond to calls and emails asking whether Willison is armed.

In the July 1998 attack on the Capitol, officers were the first line of defense against a man firing a .38 caliber revolver. Detective John Gibson, who was stationed outside the office of then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-TX), managed to shoot armed intruder Russell Weston Jr.

Gibson later died from several gunshot wounds sustained during the incident. Officer Jacob Chestnut also was shot and killed that day. Authorities determined Weston suffered from severe delusions and wasunfit to stand trial. Weston, unlikely to ever be tried, wascommitted to a mental hospital.

In the immediate wake of Wednesday’s shooting in Ottawa, Capitol Police did not make any major modifications to security around the 276-acre complex. Department spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider indicated police were monitoring the event and remained at a”post-9/11 heightened level of awareness.”



  1. charleo1 October 23, 2014

    I’m usually more worried about what comes out of Congress that will hurt me, or my family. Than I am about what comes into Congress, to harm them. That said, a nut manages to jump the fence, and run all the way into the White House, and down a couple of corridors, it’s time to tighten it up a bit.

    1. Independent1 October 23, 2014

      Charle, maybe things are tightening up a little at the White House. A guy who jumped the fence last night (10/22) was caught almost immediately after hitting the grounds.

      Here are some excerpts on that from an article in the Dallas News:

      A 23-year-old Maryland man was in the custody Wednesday night after he climbed over the White House fence and was swiftly apprehended on the North Lawn by uniformed Secret Service agents and their dogs.

      The incident came about a month after a previous White House fence jumper sprinted across the same lawn, past armed uniformed agents and entered the mansion before he was felled in the ceremonial East Room and taken into custody.

      That embarrassing Sept. 19 incident preceded the disclosure of other serious Secret Service breaches in security for President Barack Obama and ultimately led to Julia Pierson’s resignation as director of the agency after 18 months on the job.

      Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said a man he identified as Dominic Adesanya of Bel Air, Maryland, climbed the north fence line at about 7:16 p.m. and was taken into custody immediately by uniformed agents and K-9 teams that constantly patrol the grounds. Adesanya was unarmed at the time of his arrest, Leary said. Charges were pending.

      After Pierson resigned, an agent who once led Obama’s protective detail came out of retirement to lead the Secret Service until Obama names a new director, pending the completion of internal and independent reviews of agency practices.

      1. charleo1 October 23, 2014

        I think so as well. My comment was a bit flip for what is in
        reality, a very serious subject. I would not have wanted to be one of the detail on guard, the morning after the guy ran
        all the way into the WH. Any time something like that happens, those who may be contemplating a more serious
        mission, with the intent to do real harm, are watching, and
        perhaps emboldened. Part of the reason the security the Secret Service provides is so effective. Is in no small part
        enhanced by the idea, that the men are so well trained, and
        the system is so well designed, that any attempt would be
        futile. And I think they’ve unfortunately lost some of that mystique, over the last few years. Let’s hope not too much.

  2. Steve Rogers October 24, 2014

    We should also keep in mind that Joe Biden’s childish advice on armed self-defense is not to be taken seriously.


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