Gov. Rick Perry and his chosen leader of the state Department of Public Safety fundamentally disagree about how to secure the Capitol in the wake of a January shooting that rattled those who work under the dome and prompted renewed calls for stricter safety measures.
DPS Director Steve McCraw has been collaborating with legislative leaders on a security improvement plan since a gunman fired shots on the Capitol grounds Jan. 21. The plan, which will be presented to state officials later this month, includes placing X-ray machines and metal detectors at Capitol entrances. While McCraw and some state senators argue the increased protective measures are critical, Perry and others in the Legislature worry such security hurdles would make the Capitol unwelcoming to the public.
Seemingly lost in all the hoopla over metal detectors at capitol entrances are the bigger threats beyond the pink granite walls. The fellow at the capitol in January who was angry at state Sen. Dan Patrick's staffer fired off shots outside, so metal detectors would do nothing to stop that. In fact, as I pointed out in that earlier post, when crowds are heaviest in spring of odd years, metal detectors risk creating more targets for outdoor gunmen while an ocean of tourists, schoolchildren, lobbyists and staff wait to be checked by security.
Grissom also reports that "At an April 2009 hearing of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security, a man named Clay Laird told Carona, chairman of the committee, that if he and other legislators didn’t clamp down on illegal immigration they would hear from him later at their homes." But once again, the threat of harm wasn't inside the capitol and if someone came to the senator's home, those metal detectors won't protect them. This solution does not match - and perhaps even exacerbates - the problems being described.
State Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, chairman of the House Administration Committee, who is working with McCraw and other legislators on the security plan, [who] said they hope to agree on and implement new safety measures before the start of the 2011 legislative session. Geren said he’s not sold on the idea of X-ray machines and metal detectors, either. Nothing lawmakers do inside the Capitol, he said, is going to keep “some idiot” from shooting his gun outside the building. “No matter what we do, we can’t stop a stupid guy from being stupid,” Geren said. “You can’t legislate stupidity.”UPDATE: Steven Polunsky, who is committee director for the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, asked if I'd publish this addendum reacting to this post:
1. True, the recent shooter fired his weapon outside the Capitol. But, he had it on him when he was in Senator Patrick's office.My reaction: First, I appreciate Mr. Polunsky's response. However, anyone can spin out hypotheticals, but all this security theater being suggested was spurred by specific threats that wouldn't have been deterred by metal detectors, which can't stop gunmen firing of a weapon outside the building or seeking out legislators at their homes. It doesn't minimize possible threats inside the capitol (which is already larded with armed troopers) to point out that all the examples being used to justify more invasive capitol security wouldn't have been prevented by the measures proposed.
2. True, the threat our Committee members received was verbally about their homes, but that is not the issue. The salient point is that the witness clearly threatened the members, and a witness willing to do that who is sitting a few feet away from the panel has all it takes - motive, opportunity, and means. Also, the hearing was in the Extension.
I think you may have a good argument about lines forming outside the Capitol, but your attempt to reduce the nature of the threat inside the Capitol is off.