The Shadow of the Gun

Serving in Congress is now a matter of life and death.

That’s why congressional leaders must stop colleagues who pack loaded pistols on Capitol property and pose a threat to kill somebody. Disarmament is long overdue for federal lawmakers who prowl the Hill with itchy fingers on the triggers like gunfighters in a shoot ’em up Western movie.

All members of Congress, including my congressman, U.S. Rep Matt Cartwright, D-8, Moosic, are legally permitted to carry a loaded firearm in their Washington Capitol offices.

Is Cartwright a pistol-packer? If not, does he mind if others, including dangerous right-wing conspiracy theorists with whom he shares the House of Representatives chamber, keep loaded guns in their offices or as they stalk the polished halls of American law and order?

You’d think a federal lawmaker endorsed by Giffords (an organization dedicated to saving lives from gun violence that is led by former congresswoman and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords) would have the courage to publicly stand against future violence. But my wishy-washy congressman refuses to answer my questions about whether he’s willing to take action to help head off murder.

A 1967 law bans civilians from carrying guns on Capitol Hill, even if they have concealed carry licenses. But the law carves out an exception for lawmakers who can keep firearms in their offices. Guns aren’t allowed everywhere. They’re prohibited in the House and Senate chambers and their adjoining lobbies and cloakrooms, the Marble Room of the Senate, and the Rayburn Room of the House, according to a recent story at the Trace, America’s only team of journalists exclusively dedicated to reporting on our country’s gun violence crisis.

So where does Cartwright stand? And will he join Democrats on the Congressional Progressive Caucus in opposing lawmakers who want to continue carrying loaded firearms on Capitol property?

Last week I emailed basic questions to Cartwright’s Scranton and Washington offices.

Has Rep. Cartwright ever possessed a gun in his office? If so, when? Does he support proposed legislation to ban guns on Capitol property, including in the offices of members of Congress? If so, why? If not, why not?

I sent my inquiry to Scranton District Director Bob Morgan, a company man whose official bio highlights his 25 years in financial services and how he was responsible for providing investment and client relationship services to individuals and institutions.

Seasoned Chief of Staff Hunter Ridgway got an email, too.

Morgan responded he was “forwarding your questions along to our Washington Press Secretary Matt Slavoski.  Matt replaced Melvin Felix in DC.”

I mistakenly sent an email to Felix who at least responded that he no longer works for Cartwright. He has signed on as Communications Director for the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. I hope Felix does a better job there than at Cartwright’s office where he regularly ignored my emails as a constituent, veteran journalist and active independent member of the working press.

In a follow-up email to Morgan I asked for Slavoski’s email address. Morgan failed to respond and Slavoski never answered my questions from Morgan’s forwarded email.

Ridgeway also didn’t respond to my email or a follow-up in which I wrote, “If you received my questions for Rep. Cartwright please let me know as I want to give the congressman every chance to answer my questions.”

Cartwright regularly evades legitimate questions that challenge his outmoded and risky bad conduct, yet another reason his colleagues on the Congressional Progressive Caucus should kick him out of their good company.

With the exception of a low-level office staffer who answered the phone and called back one day when I asked why Cartwright was slow in signing on to Trump’s second impeachment, neither Cartwright nor any ranking member of his staff has responded for over a year to my written questions for the congressman about his public policy positions.

As a longtime progressive Democratic voter in Cartwright’s district, I’m a good citizen who takes government accountability seriously. Cartwright takes political opportunism seriously. He wants mostly white male gun owners to see him as one of the boys.

My expectations for government service are more demanding.

I expect Cartwright to stand firm as a legislator brave enough to step from behind his dull shield of silence and face questions he and his arrogant staff are clearly too self-absorbed to answer.

Lives are increasingly at risk on Capitol Hill.

You’d think Cartwright, a Jan. 6 siege survivor at the Capitol where a Capitol police officer and four others died, would understand the urgency of exhibiting good judgment.

After finagling his way into Democratic leadership, Cartwright sits on the House Committee of Appropriations and serves as Chair of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science.

You’d think by now he’d have his finger on the pulse of reason rather than providing cover for a shooting gallery loaded with anti-government fanatics, paranoid rioters and gun nuts bent on destroying law and spreading disorder.

Not Matt Cartwright.

The congressman prefers we live in the deadly shadow of the gun.