Lawmakers look at event security

January 10, 2011 3:22:16 PM PST
Following the fatal shooting in Arizona, authorities are looking into how they can better protect lawmakers without compromising conversations with constituents.

North Side Congressman Mike Quigley participated Monday morning in a moment of silence for the Arizona shooting victims, which include his colleague, Rep. Gabrielle Gifford. Giffords was one of 13 people injured in a shooting in Tucson, Ariz., over the weekend. Six others were killed. While there has been much talk of providing increased security for lawmakers, those who serve acknowledge there is not much than can be done to protect them from a public they represent.

"I don't know any congressmen who is going to curtail their activities. We all recognize this is the people's house and we are not doing are jobs effectively if we are not communicating with voters," Quigley said.

Almost 30 years ago, Orland Park Police Chief Tim McCarthy, a former Secret Service agent, took a bullet for President Ronald Reagan. He said it would be financially impossible to provide that level of protection for every member of Congress. However, he said there are simple steps each lawmaker can take at public events.

"If you have a barrier, people might be 10-12 feet away. Common sense," said McCarthy.

Laura Schwartz, the former White House director of special events for the Clinton administration, said U.S. Capitol Police are likely to suggest having a congressional staffer act as a liaison with local law enforcement.

"Having local law enforcement play a role in at least knowing what's going on, where it is going on, what they're expecting could prove to be helpful safety of citizens as well as lawmakers," Schwartz said.

While Quigley hopes the Arizona shooting will not stop his constituents from attending congressional events, McCarthy wants to remind the public even the highest level of security may not prevent an incident.

"There is no fool proof predictor of human behavior. If there was the Secret Service would have it," McCarthy said.