Congressional leaders promise members security review after shooting
January 9th, 2011
06:54 PM ET
9 years ago

Congressional leaders promise members security review after shooting

WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Democrats and Republicans participated in a rare bipartisan conference call Sunday to discuss the condition of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as well as security concerns for members of Congress.

Republican and Democratic leaders, the chief of the United States Capitol Police, a doctor from the Office of the Attending Physician of Congress, and the Chief of Staff to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords briefed about 800 lawmakers, their spouses and top aides.

"I've been in Congress 22 years and I have never been on a conference call with Democratic and Republican leaders," Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, told CNN. He said he was struck by how genuinely bipartisan and impressive all the congressional leaders were who spoke - from Speaker John Boehner to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Washington state Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, who says he counts Giffords as his "closest friend" in the House, said the call was "to let people know how Gabby and the others were doing" and secondarily to discuss security concerns. "Obviously this is going to make us re-look at everything, but no specific recommendations came out of (the call)," Smith said.

Democratic and Republican aides on the call said House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood told members they need to be aware of their surroundings, designate a district staff member to deal with security issues and reach out to local law enforcement and U.S.Capitol Police if they have any safety concerns.

Sources say lawmakers will receive a more in-depth briefing Wednesday from Capitol Police, the sergeant-at-arms and the FBI.

Smith said only so much can be done. "We are public officials, we can't go out to every public meeting with six or seven armed guards around us," he told CNN.

But other lawmakers said they believe more dramatic security measures should be taken to help protect them, their families and their aides.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told CNN he has always has had a concealed weapon license and has often carried a weapon, which is legal in his state, but he said he "may do it more regularly now" in light of the attack on Giffords.

Chaffetz said he thinks Congress should consider using the U.S. Marshals Service, which protects federal judges, to provide security as needed for lawmakers when in their districts.

The U.S. Marshals Service is responsible for protecting the entire federal judiciary at their homes as well as their offices if necessary, following the attack on a Chicago judge's home in 2005.

Chaffetz said he is considering formally proposing the idea in his new role as chairman of the Homeland Defense Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight.

Although he has only been in Congress two years, says he has already gotten half a dozen threats that have caused him to call the Capitol Police and local law enforcement for help.

He said U.S. marshals can be especially helpful at lawmakers' homes.

"I feel a vulnerability is my residence. It's so easy to figure out where a member of Congress lives," Chaffetz said.

"The violent tweets that you see out there, Facebook message boards, we're going to have to take these threats more seriously," he said.

Meanwhile, a Republican aide on the conference call said Boehner told members, "Gabby was attacked while doing the most important role of a member - listening. [Her aide] Gabe Zimmerman gave his life doing his job, helping his boss represent the people of his district."

Democratic and Republican leaders also announced they are working on a bipartisan resolution to bring to the House floor Wednesday to honor Giffords and other victims of the shooting rampage in Arizona.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor sent a notice saying, "It is my recommendation that all Members of the House who can, return to Washington to honor those who have fallen and to receive any necessary security briefings from the U.S. Capitol Police."

Filed under: Arizona • Congress • Gabrielle Giffords
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    If they could control their town halls this would not be a problem. I have been to a few and the only people that are standing up and screaming are people that do not like democrats. I saw this with my own eyes in a Conservative Temple. Stop the hate....leaders stop encouraging it. Please lead and do not incite.

    January 9, 2011 07:00 pm at 7:00 pm |
  2. B

    If you believe that it is your right to have deadly weapons and allow them to be sold like candy bars at the local store then this will never end. We need laws and enforcement of those laws that do not allow ANYONE to obtain deadly weapons- period.

    January 9, 2011 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  3. Oy Vey Az

    I am fuming ! Don't point fingers ? Just wait for the next shoe to drop ? Patience ? I think its time to start calling out all the hate filled voices across our land. What are we a spineless bunch of cowards who can’t see tyranny when it hisses in our face. It starts in your living room.

    Or maybe pass a law banning the ownership of media organizations by anyone from Australia.

    And as far as the Democrat's proposal to make another law ? Don't we already have "thou shall not murder" ? From God we get this. It's a biggie. Did that law protect Rep. Giffords ? If Democratic lawmakers think that they can shield themselves from harm by passing more laws they are sadly mistaken. They'll never be able to pass enough laws to be protected from forms of free speech that are punctuated by bullets as long as hate filled rhetoric spews forth across our airways.

    January 9, 2011 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  4. toscan

    Rupert Murdock, owner of My Space and Fox News, had My Space pull down the shooters site. He proclaimed Palin as his "hero" and Fox news as his favorite station. Seems Fox's constant barrage of hate speech toward their fellow Americans is having an impact.

    January 9, 2011 07:18 pm at 7:18 pm |
  5. Sonny

    Not another one case legislation!?

    Yes, this is a tragic event, but this is not an excuse to put up a smoke screen of security and avoid the root cause.

    Both political parties should come out and tone down their political rhetoric. American people should focus on issues, however heated it could be, never focus on individuals. What goes around, comes around..

    We can blame the politicians, we can blame the media, we can blame the talk show hosts...but at the end, it is us the people allow them to do so by supporting whoever speak the loudest and the most outrageous. Hey, the media and those talk show hosts are trying to make a living, a very good living, and they are satisfy our desire. If we, the people, desire civility, media will be more civil and our elected representatives will be more civil.

    Interesting that our elected representatives are calling themselves elected leaders...really? People elect them to represent us, not lead us.

    January 9, 2011 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  6. GJ

    Congress men and woman who choose to run for office, should hire their own security to protect them–not the people. No way, no how!!!! The only people we should provide the funds to protect our the Executive Administration, leaders of each house of congress and key federal secretaries. All others in public office must provide for their own security. That is the price you pay for taking your position!!!!!

    January 9, 2011 07:33 pm at 7:33 pm |
  7. Sean

    Although the shooting and mass killings in Arizona was awlful, we need to stop for a minute take a different look at everything that has transpired and then ask ourselves what makes these elected "PEOPLE" anymore special than anyone of our American's in this country. If John Doe down the street from me was assulted and killed, "Would our government stop doing it's job"? And if one of our service members had just lost their life fighting for this country, " Would our government stop doing it's job then"? And the answer to those 2 questions would be, "NO". Then what makes the senseless killing of a Congresswoman anymore special then anyone of our fellow Americans in this country. Government doesn't stop. And then the government wants to provide security for their elected officials, "at whose expense", "The Taxpayers". And how far is this going to set our deficet back? And government officials wonder with all of our glorious freedoms we have, that the few nutcases we have in this country, that shootings like this will not occur. Until the U.S. Government realizes that they were elected to do a temp job and that the job details did not say, "Let's see how much we can screw "THE PEOPLE", then nothing will ever be accomplished in this country that will ever really mean anything. I could really see our fore fathers rolling over in their graves, at the way our government has gotten out of control.

    January 9, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  8. firejohn

    I'm very glad to see our reps coming together as they should for something such as this.. My heart goes out to all the victims and family members all involved.

    But I find it a bit hard to believe that these people only come together like this when it hits home.. I would've like to seen a turnout like this for the 9/11 Bill.. It makes me sick but thats how it is. Again my heart goes out to everyone involved

    January 9, 2011 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  9. Thinker

    This means that our reps will be more inaccessible to their constituents. An idea, stop the fighting between the parties and maybe the nut cases won't be trying to kill you. I do think the left has more to worry about as the right is much better armed.

    January 9, 2011 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  10. Marie

    I hope lawmakers consider the safety of their constituency FIRST. These men, women and children were participating our government. They ARE "We the People" and if Congress can't figure how to have honest debate, they deserve no greater protection than any of us who live in and love this country.

    Learn to use nonviolent communication and make all our children safer.

    January 9, 2011 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  11. Lori

    It's sad that is has to take a horrible and senseless crime to bring congress together but a least it's the one good thing that can come from this tragedy. Democrats and Republicans need to keep the goodwill flowing and remember to remain civil and respectful no matter what debate they are having. As for security why can't local police standby while a member of congress is mingling with the public? If local police won't help with security then it would probably be smart and a good investment to hire a couple of security people to hang back and make sure the situation stays safe for everyone at the event.

    January 9, 2011 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  12. Luke

    People like Roger Ailes and Sarah Palin use their positions of public trust to dissemenate false information, make ridculous accusations against mainstream politicians, whip these right wing nuts up into a frenzy ... and now Senator Lamar Alexander says "Hey they arent responsible." Senator, any one who provides a "Hit List" of congressmen to millions of their rightwing disciples - knowing many are whack jobs - puts a gun-site symbol over the residences of their "targets".... can not with a straight face claim " Oh me Oh my, I had nothing to do with that crazy man actually shooting one of them.

    Senator, you have got to be the gullible person in all of Tennessee, if not the country.

    January 9, 2011 07:45 pm at 7:45 pm |
  13. tcaros

    The Fox News network and the radical right are responsible for this.

    The radical right assassinated an abortion doctor after they spread their hate message.

    January 9, 2011 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  14. Durhasan

    Instead of creating another layer of security to manage, why not require that at lease one of the staffer-aids be a former law enforcement individual who can serve as a bodyguard for Congressperson whenever their schedule requires public appearances, as well as perform other duties and responsibilities. Also require that a local law enforcement officer be present in any jurisdiction where a 9ongressperson makes a public appearance to a open group of individuals. This can be implemented immediately as a trail baloon and will prove to be the most cost effective.

    January 9, 2011 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  15. j rob

    such a sad story

    January 9, 2011 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  16. Kevin G. in Texas

    Good profiling could have prevented this horrific event.

    January 9, 2011 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  17. Name ty

    God bless the families its sad that a tragic event had to happen in order to make us listen to each other this is when American pepole need to come together and make peace and have justice for all .

    January 9, 2011 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  18. Peter

    As Congress hides in a fortress, the general public is left with the NRA. Not until they allow guns in government buildings will I feel that more guns mean less crime.

    January 9, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  19. Dave

    What is the point of trying to label someone "left" or "right" every time something happens lke this?
    It makes no sense except to divide us even more. I am a conservative (fiscally and on foriegn policy) but, really, who cares? The [erson was unstable and had issues, regardles of political leanings. It is like when they tried to blame the Columbine shootings on Marily Manson or pin stuff on Judas Priest or Ozzy in the 1980's.

    Stop looking to blame the radio or tv or a movie... these things are merely a reflection of the individual's thoughts, they are not a deciding factor. Something was wrong with this person to begin with.

    The way this society has to find blame somewhere so quick is really getting pathetic. Look at the BP Oil spill. The White House and Media were so busy looking to blame people right from the start they were ignoring the leak getting worse. It was disgusting.

    We need to get over that mind set real soon

    January 9, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  20. T'sah from Virginia

    Stop the Rhetoric and keep our representatives SAFE!!!

    I watch, with tears, this entire event all weekend. Pointing fingers to the RIGHT or LEFT is NOT the issue. I blame those who allowed this loser to get a gun!!! Once it was determined that this guy – Jared – was not sporting a FULL DECK – that alone should have put his ASH in a database and disallow him to buy a gun!!!

    Sarah Palin is an idiot and she knows not what she does. Blaming her means NOTHING – Keeping in mind she's NOT qualified to be a president is all we need to think about!!

    Let's pray for the recovery of ALL who were injured and may those who left us – R.I.P. (especially 9 year old Ms. Green who was BORN during a tragedy and DIED by a tragedy)!!

    January 9, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  21. Phoenix86

    I do not condone violence against any elected official, but the democratic majority of the last 4 years was more damaging to the country as a whole than the act of this deranged gunman.

    January 9, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  22. bob

    There are no excuses for this young man's horrific act. That said, I'm certain that the USA is filled with men and women right now, both democratics and republicans, so insanely infuriated at the US Government, and especially congress, that they actually might empathize and understand the anger and frustration that may be responsible for this young man's horrific actions. but unfortunately, the us congress and our executive branch will never change while big money and corporate influence dictate American elections... our once great nation is now nothing more than just a military power - it's sad, but true...

    January 9, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  23. Rick McDaniel

    The reports are coming in.........and the reality now seems to be, that this person had mental issues, was clearly unstable, and had contact with the legislator in the past. Bottom line......this had zero to do with the "political rhetoric", and any attempt to claim that, on the part of the Dems, is yet another Dem lie!

    January 9, 2011 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  24. david

    I feel much better now.

    January 9, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  25. Bob from Pittsburgh

    First of all ""trully stop seling guns to mental patients" legislate that you must have a doctors note stipulating you are sane..""
    Second stop the stupid rethoric such as the one Paling and Beck spew out""
    Third make sure you compromised on common sence legislation.

    January 9, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
1 2