The man who was arrested with two guns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition near the Capitol during President Barack Obama’s health care speech in September had been an employee of the George W. Bush White House. The arrest of the man, Joshua Bowman, was widely reported at the time, but the news stories made no mention of his previous employment: For several years he worked in the Executive Office of the President, dealing with tech issues, including White House emails, his lawyer, George Braun, tells Mother Jones.
On the night of September 9, Bowman was on his way to meet Braun, a Bush administration political appointee, at the National Republican Club on First Street, SE when he was stopped by Capitol Police around 7:45 p.m.—minutes before Obama was scheduled to deliver a major address to Congress pushing his health care initiative. Bowman had driven up to a security checkpoint and told officers he wanted to park, but his lack of a permit for the area aroused their suspicions, and they asked to search his car.
The previous weekend, Bowman and Braun had gone duck-hunting, according to Braun. But Bowman forgot that he still had the guns in his car when he consented to a search of his vehicle, a Honda Civic with a bumper sticker proclaiming, “I’ll keep my guns, freedom, and money…. you keep the change.” The officers found a Beretta 12 gauge semi-automatic* shotgun, a .22 caliber long rifle, and over 400 rounds of ammunition in Bowman’s trunk. The guns were unloaded and in their cases, according to court records. Braun says they were disassembled. The Capitol Police took Bowman into custody and charged him with two counts of possession of an unregistered firearm and one count of unlawful possession of ammunition. He faced up to $3,000 in fines and as much as three years in jail. (The case is still pending.)
When Braun—who was at the National Republican Club, hanging out with congressmen including Iowa’s Tom Latham and Nebraska’s Lee Terry—finally heard from Bowman, it was around 10 p.m. Bowman told Braun he needed Braun to get him out of jail, explaining that he had been stopped with guns in his car. “Don’t you know that’s illegal?” Braun asked. Both men were surprised when they heard the story on the radio as they left jail the next day. Braun thought the coverage was excessive. “They were making him sound like a terrorist,” Braun said. “Does [Bowman] look like a terrorist? He has the élan to walk around with a bowtie.”
Braun suggested that Bowman was only caught with the guns because he was used to having a White House security pass and expected to be able to park near the Capitol. He probably wouldn’t have been stopped and searched by Capitol Police if he had still had the pass. He had left government employ just a few weeks earlier, having landed a high-paying job at Northrop Grumman. “He hung out for a long time. He worked for a Republican administration and he was pretty much the last person in the Democratic administration. It’s not that he thought the new administration was right or wrong—it’s called ‘a year and a day,’ and Josh was there for six,” Braun said, referring to the Washington tradition of working a government job for long enough to put it on your resume and then leaving for a higher-paid private sector gig.
It seems pretty clear that Bowman wasn’t planning anyone any harm when he drove to Capitol Hill in September. Braun claims the Secret Service was unconcerned about the incident (no federal charges were filed) because they knew Bowman from his years in the White House. But having unregistered guns in the District of Columbia is illegal (although perhaps not for much longer if gun rights advocates continue to win court challenges), and Bowman certainly made a big mistake. Even his girlfriend thought so. “His girlfriend called me up and asked, ‘Is my boyfriend the stupidest guy in the world or what?'” Braun said. For the moment, it’s unclear whether that mistake will land Bowman in jail.
*An earlier version of this article described the shotgun as automatic.