After Giffords Shooting, Lawmakers See Little Change to Security

Senate aides say there is not much that can be done to increase security.


Despite multiple security briefings on Capitol Hill in response to the Arizona assassination attempt on Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, top staffers believe most members will shun stepped up protection when visiting with constituents back home. [See photos of the Giffords shooting in Arizona.]

"We got a notice from the Capitol Police about heightened vigilance, but there's not much more that can be done, quite frankly," said a top Senate aide. "I think the adults in the Senate know that this sort of tragedy can happen and there's not much anyone can do to stop it. Reagan was shot with a full security detail around him and members certainly aren't going to get even that 1981 level of security around them," added the aide.

In fact, say other aides, security around the U.S. Capitol and House and Senate buildings, while heightened after the Arizona shooting, was already tight as a result of 9/11 and that members feel safe on the Capitol Hill campus. But some are reviewing their mail, phone calls, and social media pages for hints of aggression from critics.

The shooting fall out is also generating a lot of discussion over gun control and Democratic suggestions that Republicans have been using unusually harsh political language that might have incited alleged shooter Jared Loughner.

On gun control, for example, some in the GOP might be open to limits on how large bullet magazines can be. Loughner allegedly used an unusually large clip in his 9-millimeter Glock that had been banned under the recently expired assault gun ban. [Read more about gun control and gun rights.]

But Republicans are upset with Democrats suggesting that words they used in the 2010 campaign were to blame. "All this [debate] about 'targeting' a politician is inciting violence is asinine. If just using terms like 'target' leads to violence then we'd have had members killed every year since the start of the Republic," said another key Senate aide. "All these members talking about threats to themselves and their own security need to stop."

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