4 state lawmakers revoked of gun-carrying privilege

April 11, 2011 6:34:56 PM PDT
State lawmakers who had been given permission to bring their guns to work at the capitol faced new rules Monday, and it's sparking debate over how best to protect our politicians.

Monday marked the first day when California Assembly members came to work, but had to check their guns at the door. Under a 2010 law, the sergeant-at-arms gave four unnamed lawmakers permission to carry a concealed weapon under the Capitol dome, but Assembly Speaker John Perez revoked the permits Friday to review the policy.

"The sergeant, although he's authorized under state law to grant that permission, we ought to have more minds involved in the ultimate policy," said Democratic majority leader and Assm. Charles Calderon, D-Montebello.

It's unclear why the four lawmakers wanted to pack heat while in Sacramento. They were only allowed to carry their gun from the Capitol garage to their offices, not the floor. But the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona brought attention to the vulnerability of politicians.

"What you're really asking is, should lawmakers be denied the Second Amendment? I would say that they shouldn't," said Assm. Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. "I think any infringement of the Second Amendment is a mistake. I'm really hopeful that the speaker will reconsider that."

Capitol visitors already go through screening and metal detectors before entering the state Capitol. And this month the Assembly sergeants-at-arms began carrying .40-caliber semi-automatic weapons to enhance safety given the rising levels of rhetoric on taxes and other controversial proposals. Armed CHP officers are also guarding the building.

"I don't believe that I would ever, ever carry a weapon," said St. Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

Yee has received a few death threats, but thinks the building's security is adequate and a sergeant-at-arms is available for events outside the Capitol.

"We have got to trust those individuals who've been detailed to support us, help us, protect us," said Yee.

A proposal to allow lawmakers to the list of people allowed to carry guns is making its way through a policy committee. Perez is also looking to re-install the panic button in lawmakers' offices, which alerts the sergeant-at-arms of trouble.

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