Among the differences between the state House and Senate chambers — beyond the most obvious that there are twice as many representatives and thus twice as many desks on the House floor — is the rule about guns in the gallery. Ordinarily, it doesn’t make much difference; last week, it did.
Much of the Capitol, like most of the state, is “open carry” so it’s not unusual to see people walking around the grounds, gathering on the north steps of the Legislative Building or meandering into the domed structure with a rifle in arm or a handgun at the waist.
There are some who consider this a bit unusual because protesters with picket signs must remove the sign from the stick and leave the latter outside before entering the building. The Second Amendment does not guarantee the right to keep and bear sticks.
People openly carrying weapons can stroll around the Rotunda or congregate in the hallways, but cannot bring their firearms into the galleries above the House and Senate chambers. This rule was enacted several years ago in reaction to a significant number of well-armed protesters in the galleries who had some lawmakers below thinking some weapons were being pointed at them. The protesters have insisted that wasn’t the case and some anti-gun legislators were just being Nervous Nellies, but even some strong Second Amendment backers in the chambers were not happy with activities in the gallery that day.
House and Senate leadership, who set the rules for their respective galleries and committee rooms, instituted “no open carry” policies for those spaces, which were arguably in keeping with restrictions against bringing props to make a point. But those rules didn’t apply to concealed weapons.