Fact checking claims January 6 was not an armed insurrection

The question of whether rioters were armed on January 6 has been among the most debated issues surrounding the insurrection — with some Republicans claiming the assailants were not armed, despite court documents alleging otherwise.

During Tuesday’s House select committee hearing on January 6, we got fresh details and first-hand accounts from four police officers who came face to face with rioters and the weapons they brought, once again debunking this false narrative.

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, one of two Republicans Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose to serve on the committee, ridiculed the idea that January 6 “was not an armed insurrection” and asked the four officers testifying to respond to that claim.

In February, GOP Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin made waves for questioning whether the events of January 6 were really as violent as they appeared and suggested it wasn’t an armed insurrection. And in May, Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas claimed there was no evidence the riot was an “armed insurrection,” adding that “Not one person has been charged with bringing a firearm to the Capitol.”

As Kinzinger noted during the hearing, all of these claims are inaccurate.

Facts First: While it’s impossible to know precisely how many firearms were brought to the Capitol on January 6, it’s already clear that at least some of the people present were carrying guns that day. And as the police officers who testified at the committee on Tuesday made clear, rioters also used numerous other objects as weapons such as knives and bats.

Weapons used

US Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell told Kinzinger that “(c)ommon things were used as weapons, like a baseball bat, a hockey stick, a rebar, a flagpole — including the American flag — pepper spray, bear spray.”

The rioters “had all these items,” Gonell said, “used to attack us. Those are weapons.”

As CNN has reported, rioters also used knives, stolen police shields, a stun gun, fire extinguisher and more. Hand-to-hand combat led to more than a dozen officers being sent to the hospital, some of whom had bone fractures and concussions.

Firearms

So far, with the investigation still ongoing, three individuals have been charged for allegedly bringing a gun onto Capitol grounds on January 6. At least two other individuals have also been charged with gun crimes in relation to the events of that day, though they are not accused of carrying on Capitol grounds.

According to police testimony, Christopher Alberts was arrested leaving the Capitol grounds on January 6 while trying to flee from officers after they suspected he was carrying a firearm on his hip. Alberts was carrying a loaded pistol and 25 rounds of ammunition, according to court documents.

Guy Reffitt has been charged with illegally bringing a handgun on Capitol grounds on January 6. Reffitt allegedly told family members he “brought his gun with him” in the Capitol attack.

Mark Ibrahim, who at the time was an off-duty special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration, has been charged with bringing his service weapon on Capitol grounds during the insurrection as well as lying to the FBI about why he was at the Capitol.

Another individual, Cleveland Meredith Jr., is accused of possessing a pistol and rifle without “a registration for any firearm in Washington, DC,” which were recovered by the FBI a day after the insurrection. According to an officer statement, the individual arrived too late for the Capitol riot and talked about killing Pelosi in a text conversation.

Yet another person, Lonnie Coffman, is accused of parking a truck filled with 11 homemade bombs, a handgun and an assault rifle two blocks away from the Capitol for several hours on January 6. Most of these defendants have pleaded not guilty or say they’ll fight the charges.

Federal prosecutors have also said members of the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group, likely stored weapons at a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, as part of their plan to have an armed rapid-response force during the January 6 insurrection.

During Tuesday’s hearing, DC Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges noted that the situation during the riot made it difficult to confirm reports of firearms and conduct arrests accordingly on January 6 itself. Hodges said the gun recovery unit was “working the crowd to try and confirm reports of firearms on certain people but it’s also difficult to do given the nature of the crowd and how many there were.”

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