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The Guardian

Florida Republican sends welcome grenades to fellow Congress members

By Martin Pengelly in New York,

Mills was a member of the armed services and foreign affairs committee. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A newly elected Florida Republican sent grenades to fellow members of Congress, prompting one aghast Democrat to say “not even George Santos could make this stuff up”.

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Santos is the scandal-plagued New York congressman whose largely made-up résumé and questionable finances have threatened to blow a hole in House Republicans’ narrow majority.

The grenades were sent by another freshman, Cory Mills, a member of the armed services and foreign affairs committees.

Stamped with a Republican elephant, the inert projectiles came with a letter in which Mills said: “It is my pleasure to give you a 40mm grenade, made for a Mk19 grenade launcher. They are manufactured in the Sunshine State and first developed in the Vietnam war.

“Let’s come together and get to work on behalf of our constituents.”

As pictures of the grenades spread online, a spokesman for Mills told the Washington Post: “Per the letter, the grenades are inert, and were cleared through all security metrics. I just wish they tagged our official account.”

The comparison to Santos was made by congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, a member of the House intelligence committee.

Mills, 42 and a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, won the contest to succeed the Democrat Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s seventh district last year.

Murphy was a member of the House January 6 committee. Mills is endorsed by the man who incited that deadly insurrection, Donald Trump, and supports Trump’s lie that Joe Biden won the 2020 election thanks to electoral fraud.

A defense and security contractor before entering Congress, he has boasted about selling teargas used against protesters for racial justice.

Weapons are banned in Congress and subject to strict restrictions in Washington DC. There is, however, an exception for members, under federal law.

A spokesman for Mills told Florida media “Capitol police even escorted staff into the building” as they carried the grenades.

After January 6, amid fears of congressional violence unmatched since the years before the civil war, metal detectors were installed outside the House chamber.

Republicans chafed at the security measure. Andy Harris of Maryland was found to be carrying a gun near the House chamber.

In 2020 a Republican from Colorado, Ken Buck, made waves when he said advocates of an assault weapons ban would have to forcibly remove an AR-15-style rifle he kept in his Washington office.

Buck’s hardline posturing was undercut, however, when reporters dug up a 2015 interview in which he described the bureaucratic hoops he jumped through to have the gun in his office.

“I went to the ethics committee,” he told the Post, “I got permission to accept the gift. I went to Capitol Hill police; I got permission to bring it into my office.

“They went to the DC police; they got permission for me to transport it into the District [of Columbia]. I went to [the Transportation Security Administration], and followed all of the regulations in getting it on to the plane and getting it here.”

The brightly painted rifle was unloaded and carried a trigger lock, even though it lacked a bolt carrier assembly and thus could not be fired.

“Putting a trigger lock on an inoperable gun is like putting a chastity belt on a eunuch,” Buck said. “The only dangerous thing about that gun is if someone took it off the wall and hit somebody else over the head with it.”

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