Virginia Attack Highlights Vulnerability Of Lawmakers

By Vanessa Brown | CBSDFW.COM

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The fear of becoming a target is now very real for some lawmakers after Wednesday’s attack in Alexandria, Virginia. Like many of his peers, Rep. Pete Sessions will most likely be paying a little more attention to security on Thursday, both at his Dallas office and in our nation’s capital.

The shooting has highlighted the vulnerability of many public figures across the country. Protection is normal inside of places like courthouses and government buildings. But outside, in other public spaces, many of our nation’s most notable lawmakers find themselves exposed to possible danger.

In today’s volatile political climate, where social media can detail a person’s every move, more advance security tactics may be needed, especially in situations where large groups of influential people come together. Places like these could easily become a target.

“We have almost 600 members of Congress, and it’s very few Capitol police that can protect all those members,” stated former Secret Service agent Robert Caltabiano after Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was injured when a gunman attacked lawmakers at a baseball practice. “It goes back to, this could have been anyone at any baseball field.”

It has been more than six years since former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot and injured, along with 18 other people, while meeting with her constituents outside of a grocery store in Tuscon. While she was able to recover, she resigned from her office in 2012.

And the worry is no longer limited to those with a national presence.

When protesters and threats interrupted the last day of the legislative session in Austin, Republican Rep. Stephanie Klick was worried about potential danger. “People were stalking me, when I would post in advance that I was going to be at a particular meeting or event,” she said. “We left the Capitol and I was followed to my apartment.”

Safety concerns have changed the way that government officials work. Lawmakers have improved the security for judges this session, and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price has a constant police detail to keep her safe. However, most elected officials do not have personal security. Sessions, for instance, has simply warned his traveling staff members to remain vigilant.

Klick added that, when she or her colleagues have been targeted by threats in the past, the Texas Department of Public Safety has provided personal security. She also takes it upon herself to watch what she says on social meda. “If I’m going to an event, I usually don’t post in advance of the event anymore,” she said.

Fort Worth security expert Tegan Broadwater explained that advanced measures might be reasonable in some specific places, but it all boils down to money and manpower. He recommends that everyone — even families without national attention — sit down to discuss a safety plan. And, if something does not look right, let police know immediately.

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