With the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the murder of six people in Tucson on Saturday, people are coming up with some ideas on how to keep this from happening again. Some of the ideas are:
-More gun control
-Less angry political rhetoric
-More security for office holders
I’m not in favor of more gun control laws, but I am in favor of enforcing the laws that are already on the books – and we can sure use less vitriol and anger at our elected officials – and our elected officials can tone down the political rhetoric some.
This column is about security. As one who has been involved with security issues for most of my life in one job or another, I say it’s well past the time to take a closer look at the security of elected officials.
I would wager that every elected official has at least been threatened in some way throughout their careers.
There are wackos galore roaming around the country who write letters or send e-mails, make phone calls, and there are few who are brave enough to show their faces at public meetings.
Unfortunately, some wacko on Saturday took it a step further and brought his gun to a public meeting and started shooting.
But it is just not the Senator or Representative who is threatened; the staff who work for these people probably receive even more threats in one form of another because they are the ones who are out and about in the public more, and they are the ones who answer the phones, and read the mail and e-mails from constituents and deal with constituents’ one-one frequently – and the staffer is the face of the elected official.
As one who has had threats made against me and my family while working in a past occupation, I can tell you it is alarming experience to have someone tell you they are going to blow your “f—ing head off” and then tell you your home address so they can really get to you good.
There’s no way we can protect every elected official and their employees like they are the President of the United States, but we can provide a level of security that might just prevent someone from being shot or harmed at a public event. We can do this by using local, state and Federal resources – such as requiring uniformed officers attend all public events or holding public events in more secure areas.
Of course some members of Congress may have the attitude that they don’t need the protection, but that mentality should have been put to rest on Saturday in Tucson.
These additional security resources will cost money, but it is well past the time to provide better protection to our elected officials and their staffers so in turn they can do their jobs in representing us – the constituents.
There are 435 members of the U.S. House and 100 members of the U.S. Senate. On average, they probably have 20 staff members in the district and state offices – not counting the staff they have in Washington. Most offices are not in Federal buildings, but maybe they should be.
In the coming weeks Congress will be looking for ways to better protect their members while they are out and about doing their jobs. It cannot be a “one size fits all approach” as what works in New York may not be what is best for North Dakota or Montana. Additionally, when the leaders in Congress start looking at ways to better protect themselves, they can’t forget the people who make the wheels turn – the staffers who are on the frontlines every day doing their jobs.
Being able to approach and talk to our elected officials and their representatives is an important part of our democracy – and it’s something that we must ensure is protected. More importantly those hearing our concerns must be protected, too.