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Congressional Hearings on January 6th Armed Insurrection Show Role of Firearms and Rise in Hate Motivated Violence

March 4, 2021

Over the past week, congressional committees have been holding hearings to further investigate the armed insurrection at the United States Capitol on January 6. The hearings included officials from the Capitol Police, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Homeland Security. They elevated the role of firearms in the insurrection, highlighted in a recent report from Everytown, and a new rise in domestic terror investigations before and after the attack. 

Here are the toplines from the hearings in Congress:

  • Malcolm Nance, founder of the Terror Asymmetrics Project, testified that “the entire myth of the Second Amendment being a tool to overthrow [violent government]– a government that’s oppressive, that is a relatively new thing that was created by the NRA in the 1970s. And I know, I was a member of the NRA.” Nance also noted that he is “a gun collector and I remember quite clearly when they went crazy with every mailing showing that you needed more guns to protect yourself from the government.”
  • The FBI Director, Christopher Wray, testified that “we have significantly grown the number of investigations and arrests” around domestic terrorism. The FBI testified in May 2019 that the number of such cases was about 850. According to Wray, by the end of 2020, there were about 1,400 such cases, and after January 6, the figure had grown again.
  • Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has previously falsely claimed that the insurrection was not carried out by armed actors, asked a witness if any firearms had been confiscated on Capitol grounds. In addition to eight people arrested by the DC Metropolitan Police Department and federal law enforcement in connection with the events of January 6 who were in possession of firearms, one insurrectionist was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm on Capitol grounds or buildings.

On Tuesday, the Program on Extremism at George Washington University released a new report that reviewed more than 250 cases of individuals charged in federal court for their role in the storming of the Capitol. The report states that by “using existing structures, resources and programs at its disposal, the Biden administration can authorize several steps today that would dramatically improve the efficiency of the federal response to domestic extremism without new laws or authorities.”

After a year of armed assaults on democracy culminating in an armed mob storming the U.S. Capitol in an attempted coup, Everytown released a policy platform calling for the prohibition of guns in and around sensitive government facilities, including capitol buildings, polling locations and vote counting facilities, and demonstrations on public property in addition to enforcement of existing laws that already penalize extremists’ criminal conduct. Due in large part to rhetoric from former President Donald Trump and decades of fear mongering from gun lobby groups like the NRA, far right intimidation, hate, and violence have grown unchecked in recent years, leading to at least 100 instances of armed protesters and incidents involving guns at protests in state capitals from May 2020 through mid-January 2021. 

In January, Everytown Support Fund released a new analysis that showed that police recovered at least 3,071 rounds of ammunition during arrests tied to the attempted coup. The report also details the presence of firearms at the Capitol insurrection and explains how the gun lobby has spread many of the same radicalizing conspiracy theories which motivated the insurrectionists and other extremists elsewhere in the country in recent years. Additionally, an October 2020 report highlighted the gun lobby’s decades-long role enabling armed, far-right extremism and advocating for laws that enable right-wing extremists in the United States to arm themselves. 

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