Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent time with striking New York City grocery workers instead of participating in Joe Biden’s inauguration. But that important local cause wasn’t the only reason she chose to forgo the event. Fear for her safety around fellow lawmakers was also a motivating factor.
“I think we also had very real security concerns… We still don’t yet feel safe around other members of Congress,” the Democrat told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday.
Cuomo asked how many of her Democratic colleagues have similar concerns over personal safety, “I think a very considerable amount,” Ocasio-Cortez replied.
The host was surprised and asked the lawmaker again: “You really think that colleagues of yours in Congress may do you dirty?”
The congresswoman spoke of the recent recklessness shown by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.). Harris got caught attempting to sneak a gun into the House chamber, and he is now reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Capitol Police.
“Yes, well, one [member of Congress] just tried to bring a gun on the floor of the House today. I believe it was Representative Andy Harris of Maryland. He tried to bring a gun on to the House floor,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
After giving some background on how guns are illegal in the District of Columbia and how the House has had rules prohibiting firearms since the Civil War, the lawmaker asked: “Why does a member of Congress need to sneak a gun onto the House floor?”
The gravity of the topic was brought into focus when the host talked about the possible motives behind Republican representatives’ attempts to bring a gun on the House floor. Ocasio-Cortez responded by refocusing not on her colleagues’ intent but on the potential consequences.
Cuomo: Do you think they’re bringing it in there because they want to protect all of you from insurrectionists, like we saw a couple of weeks ago, or do you think there really is a chance that you may be the enemy?
Ocasio-Cortez: Well, here is what I’ll say. The moment you bring a gun on to the House floor, in violation of rules, you put everyone around you in danger.
It is irresponsible. It is reckless. But beyond that, it is in violation of rules. You are openly disobeying the rules that we have established as a community, which means that you cannot be trusted to be held accountable to what we’ve decided, as a community.
And so, I don’t really care what they say their intentions are. I care what the impact of their actions are. And the impact is to put all 435 Members of Congress in danger.
Ocasio-Cortez went on to further explain how Harris irresponsibly tried to pass his gun to a different member of Congress after he set off a magnetometer positioned by the House floor as an increased security measure following the attack on the Capitol.
“He tried to hand off his gun to another member who didn’t have a [gun] license, and any responsible gun-owner knows that you don’t just hand off your gun to another individual,” she said, “And that just goes to show, it doesn’t matter what your intention is. If you are irresponsible, if you are trying to break rules, you’re trying to sneak a firearm on to the floor of the House — I don’t care if you accidentally set it off, I don’t care if you intentionally set it off, I don’t care if you don’t set it off at all — you are endangering the lives of members of Congress.”
“It is absolutely outrageous that we even have to have this conversation,” Ocasio-Cortez concluded.
The congresswoman’s concerns for her own safety are well-founded. As a lightning rod for conservative and conspiracist anger, she regularly receives death threats. During the attack, she said she had a “very close encounter where I thought I was going to die.” She also chose not to go to a pre-planned congressional “extraction point” because she feared QAnon sympathizing legislators might reveal details about her location. One QAnon believer, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), has boasted about carrying a gun on Capitol grounds and refused to allow Capitol Police to search her bag before she entered the House chamber.