Washington (CNN) – Top law enforcement officials on Capitol Hill told House members Wednesday they are reviewing security measures but are not recommending any major changes to how they protect members in Washington or in their districts around the country.
During closed door briefings, the House's top security official, Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood, repeated directives he made on a bipartisan conference call Sunday night after Saturday's shooting of Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson, members and aides said afterwards.
He reminded members to provide updated contact information and to designate a contact in each office to coordinate security needs with the Capitol Police and local law enforcement. If members or their offices receive any kind of threat, Livingood told them to report it to a special division of the Capitol Police already established to assess and respond to possible security issues.
"What they're asking is if something happens that you call that local law enforcement and that you also have that local coordinator call Capitol Police so that they can coordinate things," House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R- California, told reporters after attending the briefing for GOP Members.
House Democrats and Republicans returned to the Capitol for the first time since the shooting to discuss a House resolution condemning the shootings and honoring those killed and injured. They also attended separate security briefings. The House Sergeant at Arms, as well as representatives from the FBI and officials from the United States Capitol Police reviewed current security procedures in closed door meetings.
Livingood also told members he would circulate security procedure information to all House offices. The Sergeant at Arms office already posts information on security protocols on a secure website that House members and staff can access.
But Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz was unimpressed after the session, telling reporters the law enforcement officials didn't say anything new. "I think it was a little shallow. People are still in shock a little bit," Chaffetz said. He summed up the message from the law enforcement officials, as "contact your local law enforcement, we'll help you as best we can, but good luck."
Chaffetz, who already holds a permit to carry a gun, says he plans to continue to do so more often now in his home district.
But Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer said more guns are not the answer to security concerns. "Putting more guns in the mix is not the answer. It may be part of a solution to have more police, more law enforcement. But we shouldn't just turn to guns as the how to end violence," Gainer said in an interview with CNN.
Responding to Gainer's criticism, Chaffetz told CNN "I take issue with his comments. It's my Second Amendment right for a law-abiding citizen to do that. I don't plan to change anything. I don't know why he feels that way but I will continue to do it."
But Texas Republican Louie Gohmert wants to go a step further and told CNN he is drafting a bill to allow "all members of Congress to carry weapons in the District of Columbia." Current DC law restricts the practice, but Gohmert said his bill would allow members to have guns in federal buildings, as well as the House floor.
Gohmert says most members of Congress have no protection for themselves once they leave the Capitol and that it would be a good thing for them to be able to protect themselves in Washington, the way he is allowed to protect himself at home in Texas. So far, no other members have signed on to cosponsor the measure.
House Administration Committee Chairman Dan Lungren said it's unrealistic for all 435 members of the House to get the same kind of protection that the Secret Service provides to the President of the United States. Lungren explained, "the nature of our institutions are different, we are far more accessible than the president is, that's always been the case."
But Lungren said he already planned to have his committee review security procedures, and said he plans to work on better coordination between local law enforcement agencies and district offices and the Capitol Police.
Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr, Illinois, wants to increase funding for security in district offices of House members to pay for security cameras, locks, and reimburse local law enforcement when needed. While satisfied with security in Washington that was ramped up after the attacks on 9/11, Jackson said protecting offices and staffs in congressional districts has been ignored.
"We never arrived at a formula that would allow members of Congress the secure our staffs at a local level," Jackson said, "the service that they perform in the district is no different than the service that they perform here in Washington."
Jackson was one of 13 Democrats who voted against a five percent reduction in members' office budgets last week that passed the House, and argued members need the resources to pay for constituent services as well as security costs.
But Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank, told reporters he won't talk about his own security plans and doesn't think members of Congress should disclose any details about how they decide to protect themselves or their aides.
"I think it'd be a great mistake for people to discuss that. Do you really think you'd do things to enhance your security and then announce them to the world?" Frank said.