Members of private, pro-gun Facebook groups are encouraging attendees of the January 6 protest against Congress formally confirming President-elect Biden’s electoral win in Washington, D.C., to carry guns with them in potential violation of a number of the city’s laws.
Organized by groups at the center of the “Stop the Steal” protests, this event is being held on the day Congress is scheduled to formally count the Electoral College votes. Previous protests in the capital disputing the election results have sparked violence, and there have been growing threats leading up to the January 6 event as well.
On January 4, Mayor Muriel Bowser mobilized the National Guard and asked city residents to stay away from the downtown area while the events are taking place. Metropolitan police also posted signs reminding participants that it is illegal to carry firearms within 1,000 feet of a protest, and the mayor issued a press release reiterating that it is illegal to carry a gun in the city without a concealed carry permit issued by the district.
Washington has some of the strongest gun safety laws in the country and it’s highly unlikely someone would be able to bring a firearm into the city and carry it at a protest. The city does not have any reciprocity with any other state’s gun laws, it prohibits all open carrying in the district, and in order to concealed carry, a gun owner must have a registration certificate and a concealed carry permit issued by the D.C. authorities. Firearms are also prohibited at memorials, the U.S. Capitol and grounds, and within 1,000 feet of a public demonstration.
On Facebook, however, users in private groups are encouraging each other to disregard these laws.
Articles and videos about both the mayor’s press release and the signs posted by the police were shared in multiple private, pro-gun groups. The posts received dozens of comments encouraging protesters to “pack anyway,” “protect yourselves,” and “stop following liberal laws.” A few questioned what the mayor and the police would do “if everyone turned up armed anyway” and concluded they can’t arrest everyone.