Does ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., know something we don’t?
The former lawmaker, Drug Enforcement Agency director and Homeland Security undersecretary brought several armed guards and a bomb-sniffing dog to the National Rifle Association’s School Shield Program press conference at the National Press Club on Tuesday.
Bags were searched as the members of the media were filed into the room. Water bottles were confiscated. However, when a reporter asked the current leader of the NRA’s School Shield Program why there were so many armed guards, she was ignored.
Then another reporter asked the question again: Why the excessive security detail?
“As you go into a mall there is security,” Hutchison said. “So there is security here at the National Press Club.”
“We come here a lot,” yet another reporter returned. All of the reporters HOH spoke to could not recall seeing this level of security at a press conference held at the press club.
Is Hutchinson afraid of something? The reporters wanted to know.
No, he said, he was “not afraid” and he was “wide open.” Although just how “wide open” a person surrounded by a dozen armed guards actually is is up for debate.
Hutchinson’s security detail at the event was not contracted by the press club, said Bill McCarren, executive director of the National Press Club. The security measures at the event were provided by the NRA for the NRA.
“No one at the press club has a weapon,” he told HOH. “The NRA rented the space. They are aware of whatever they think their needs are.
“It’s not unusual for people who come here to have security,” McCarren continued. It is, however, unusual for a private citizen — someone who is not a government official or a head of state — to have the level of security Hutchinson rolled with.
One private citizen who had an event at the press club with a large number of armed guards was Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, McCarren recalled.
Indeed, not even congressional leaders, such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., travel with the level of security Hutchinson flashed. The Capitol Police couldn’t confirm the exact number of guards congressional leaders travel with, but CQ Roll Call’s power of observation puts the guards-packing-heat numbers in the low single digits.
Further, at Tuesday’s press conference, the presence of the bomb-sniffing canine and the armed-guard bag check leads us to believe that had we chosen to bring a firearm to this event, it would have been frowned upon.
McCarren didn’t tell us about a specific policy on carrying a weapon into the press club or press club event. He did say that anyone can walk into the building. There are no metal detectors, but there are certain protected events where guests can be wanded or searched.
And there has been at least one person brandishing a firearm on the press club premises who was asked to leave.
“There was a tea party event, where a guy in a tricorn hat holding an eight-foot musket with a pouch of bullets wanted to attend,” he told HOH. “We turned him away.”
The NRA’s press office has yet to return our requests for comment. The NRA event staff wouldn’t comment on the number or presence of armed guards at the press conference.