Reconsidering congressional security

RECONSIDERING CONGRESSIONAL SECURITY…. After Saturday’s events in Tucson, it’s understandable for members of Congress to take a fresh look at their security arrangements. I can only hope they resist the urge to go overboard.

While representatives of the United States Capitol Police and the office of the House sergeant-at-arms told lawmakers that the attack on Ms. Giffords was not part of a wider threat, they are urging them to review their security arrangements, make contact with local law enforcement officials and name a staff member as liaison with law enforcement.

On Wednesday, the Capitol security agencies are to join the F.B.I. in conducting a joint security briefing for Republicans and Democrats, who acknowledge new worries about their safety — and that of their families and staff members.

Some steps seem like common sense, such as the notion of having a member of a lawmaker’s staff serve as a point of contact with law enforcement. Indeed, after the events of last year — radical opponents of health care reform threatened to kill various Democratic lawmakers, and at one point, even cut the gas line at the home of a lawmaker’s brother — prudence suggests members take some basic precautions.

But it’s not hard to imagine the slide on a slippery slope here. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) announced yesterday, for example, that they’ll carry firearms in public in their home districts from now on. The latter has urged his staffers to get permits so they, too, can be armed at public events.

What’s more, Rep. Bob Brady (D-Pa.) told the New York Times yesterday that he would introduce legislation intended to curtail threats against federal lawmakers, banning symbols like crosshairs.

Under the circumstances, fear is understandable. But I’m hoping with a little time, cooler heads will prevail and the violence in Tucson, which appears to be the work of one lunatic, does not lead to a widespread overreaction in Washington.

That said, if policymakers, feeling the need to “do something” after the massacre, wanted to take a closer look at existing gun laws and policies related to mental health, that may be time well spent.