State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Allegations against lawmaker raise Capitol security questions

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 2, 2018 5:14 PM
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A metal detector and scanner were installed in the state Capitol in 2002, as part of an overall security boost in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. The policy has since been relaxed, and card-key-holding employees no longer have to be scanned to enter the building. (Photo by AP)


(Harrisburg) -- Two women recently accused state Representative Nick Miccarelli of repeated domestic violence.

In one incident, he allegedly brandished a gun while driving with one of the women, and threatened to kill them both. 

That's according to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Caucus.

Now, the women and some lawmakers are raising concerns the Delaware County Republican might carry a gun in the Capitol--where both of his accusers work.

Those fears are actually part of a much larger security issue at the state Capitol building.

Under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, no one but police officers can have guns in the Capitol.

Specifically, a 1995 state law dictates that any building that houses a courtroom is automatically a gun-free zone. Because the Capitol building has a courtroom, the regulation applies.

A person who breaks that law could be charged with a misdemeanor or summary offense.

A spokesman for Capitol Police said if they are made aware someone has a weapon, officers will either secure it or remove it from the building.

However, he couldn't remember that ever happening.

Despite the law, House Chief Clerk Dave Reddecliffe said he routinely hears about lawmakers who carry concealed weapons.

 But that isn't his biggest concern.

"I'm not worrying about 203 House members and 50 senators," he said. "What worries me is all the other individuals who have access to the Capitol because of their employment status."

Right now, virtually any of the more than 20,000 state employees with access badges to the state Capitol could conceivably bring a gun into the building undetected.

Visitors are the only ones who have to go through metal detectors.

"There's no rule that says that they can [have guns]," Reddecliffe said. "But nobody is checked at the door. If you have a pass to get in the door, nobody is going to stand there and ask, 'Do you have a gun on you?'"

Reddecliffe said he's been pushing to boost security for the two years he's been on the job.

He assembled a task force on the issue, and said he wants to put in place a system like the one used at the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C., where every person who enters the building, staff or not, has to go through a metal detector.

The only people exempt under that system are elected officials.

Reddecliffe said he hasn't had much success getting people to pay attention to his ideas, though. He attributes it to "typical government" slowness.

But he said he hopes that tide might be turning.

"While we haven't had a real tragedy here at the Capitol, there have been enough things that are leading to the point where it's getting the attention of some important folks that maybe will be able to say yeah, let's come up with a new model and say we won't have as many people with the free access to the Capitol as we currently do," he said.

Meanwhile, House Republicans, Governor Tom Wolf, and a number of other lawmakers say Miccarelli should resign

The House is currently conducting a workplace safety review, and leaders have called for law enforcement to investigate further.

While Miccarelli's alleged gun habits were reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer and LNP's The Caucus, WITF hasn't independently confirmed whether the lawmaker does carry a gun or has a permit to do so.

Miccarelli strongly denies the accusations against him.

In a statement, he wrote, "in this case, the #metoo movement has gone TOO far."

"I am absolutely appalled by these allegations and I deny them entirely," he added. 

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