States disagree on whether to allow people to bring guns into their Capitols. Virginia lawmakers banned guns in the statehouse, and Gov. Ralph Northam temporarily prohibited all weapons on Capitol grounds in advance of a gun-rights rally Monday. In South Dakota, lawmakers convened this month under a new law that allows them to carry guns in the statehouse. Some New Hampshire legislators are suing to overturn a year-old ban on weapons in that state’s House chamber. At least 21 states allow Capitol visitors, legislators or employees to carry guns under some circumstances, says the Crime Prevention Research Center, which issues reports supportive of gun rights. Over the past decade, the number of states allowing people to be armed at the statehouse has edged higher, said center president John Lott.
A 2017 Iowa law allows pistols and revolvers in the Capitol building in Des Moines and surrounding grounds. States typically restrict guns in places where their presence could be deemed dangerous, such as where tensions can flare, or where there is a high possibility they might chill First Amendment rights. Many gun-rights advocates say guns should be allowed in most places—including Capitols. Dayle Hammock, a Republican member of the South Dakota House, voted to allow people with concealed-carry permits to be armed at the Pierre statehouse if they notify the state highway patrol. “Having competent people that are in fact carrying firearms is another deterrent and another aspect of keeping the building safe,” he said. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence opposes guns in Capitols. “It increases the chance of a disagreement turning into some type of deadly shootout,” said the center’s Laura Cutilletta.