March 27, 2007 at 7:29 pm Leave a comment

By Michael Luo NY TIMES

Facing a crush of reporters today just outside the Senate chamber, Senator James Webb declined to comment on specifics of the case in which a close aide was arrested Monday trying to carry a loaded handgun into a Senate office building.

But he used the opportunity for a riff about the right to bear arms and “defend myself and my family.”

“Since 9/11, for people who are in government, I think there has been an agreement that it has been a more dangerous time,” he said. “You look at people in the executive branch, the number of people defending the president. There is not that kind of protection available for people in the legislative branch. We are required to defend ourselves. I choose to do so.”

The aide, Phillip Thompson, 45, who served 12 years in the Marines, has worked with Mr. Webb since he began his successful underdog campaign for the senate. Like Mr. Webb, he is an author, publishing an account of his service in the first Gulf War, as well as fiction. He was to be arraigned today on felony charges of carrying a pistol without a license and possessing an unregistered firearm and unregistered ammunition.

A 9 mm handgun and two magazines were found in his bag after he put it through an X-ray machine at the entrance to the Russell Senate Office building, the authorities said.

It remains unclear who exactly the weapon was registered to, but Mr. Webb said his aide “completely inadvertently took the weapon into the Senate yesterday.” Mr. Webb added that it happened in the scramble among his staff to prepare for a trip he took to New Orleans on Friday.
“We had three cars on Friday that were being moved about because of my trip and that is probably a piece of how this inadvertent situation developed,” he said.

Mr. Webb added he has “never carried a gun in the Capitol complex” and “did not give the weapon to Phil Thompson.”

He repeated several times his defense of the 2nd Amendment: “I believe wherever you see places where people are allowed to carry, generally the violence goes down.”

This is not the first time police manning checkpoints into congressional buildings have stumbled upon weapons. In 1986, a bodyguard for Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, was arrested when he entered a Senate building with two submachine guns and a pistol.


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