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Bad Ideas on Increased Congressional Security

By Matthew Yglesias  

"Bad Ideas on Increased Congressional Security"

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(cc photo by kevindooley)

Marc Ambinder reports on advice members of congress are getting about improved personal security and, frankly, I’m not hearing a ton of ideas I love:

According to a federal official who is preparing the advice, the Capitol Police will recommend that when members hold well-publicized outside events with uncontrolled access, they should request the presence of a police officer from the local jurisdiction. In most cases, the police will know about the event anyway, because congressional staffers would have obtained permits. In a conference call with members yesterday, Capitol Police officials emphasized that local police agencies will rarely refuse a request from a member of Congress to provide an officer for such events – and that if those agencies do, members should ask the Capitol Police to intercede.

Like Ezra Klein, I don’t really see the case for this. It’s not like the cops who local agencies will be happy to assign to members just materialize out of nowhere. More cops attending congressional town halls means fewer cops elsewhere and “Attacks on meetings held by members of Congress happen almost never, while many communities have too much crime and too few police.” Obviously what happened in Arizona is a horrible thing, but so are all the other murders that happen in the United States. There’s no particular reason to think that congressional assassination or congress-related spree killing is a serious problem in the United States that needs more specific policy emphasis relative to more general concerns about crime control and mental health.

I would say that Capitol building itself is a different matter. We have a clear, specific national interest in preventing mass killing of members of congress since a successful terrorist attack on the Capitol would actually disrupt the functioning of our democracy in a pretty profound way. But shifting public resources to provide beefed-up security of individual members just seems like a form of self-dealing.

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