Washington (CNN) - A senior senator, who had full-time security after 2001 deadly anthrax attacks, cautioned Tuesday that lawmakers run the risk of becoming isolated from their constituents if they were assigned that level of security.
"I think it puts you in a cocoon and separates you from the people you serve. I think you have to be accessible," Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, told CNN. Leahy was reacting to proposals to strengthen security for lawmakers in the wake of the alleged assassination attempt of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona.
Leahy dropped his U.S. Capitol Police detail less than two years after an anthrax-laden envelope was mailed to his Senate office. Leahy said he wanted people to approach him more easily to share their views.
"I want to walk through the grocery story at home and have people talk to me. I want to come out of church on Sunday and have people talk to me," he said. "I don't fear for my safety."
In fact, it was while running errands with his wife one weekend that he decided to forgo his security detail.
"I recall when Marcel and I were in a grocery store near where we live. We go there all the time. Saturday, we're dressed in casual clothes. Someone came up to me and said, 'I asked your security people if it's okay if I talked to you.' The security was gone the next week," Leahy said firmly.
Despite dropping full-time protection, Leahy says he takes security seriously and coordinates with local and state police for his public events in Vermont. In Washington, he says security measures are good, having "intensified dramatically" in recent years.
"We used to take the threatening letters and just throw them away," he said. "Since the anthrax attack, threatening phone calls, threatening emails, threatening letters, they go immediately to the police. That I do pay attention to."
Leahy said some of the ideas about increasing security will put up unnecessary barriers between voters and their elected representatives.
"One of the problems is that the American people feel too isolated from their government as it is," he said. "Let's not add more isolation."