Shootings spur look at security, Rep. Stivers says
Jan 13, 2011 -
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
By Jonathan Riskind
WASHINGTON - Freshman Rep. Steve Stivers, who has commanded troops in Iraq as a lieutenant colonel in the Ohio Army National Guard, visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here on Tuesday.
If seeing injured troops wasn't sobering enough for the Columbus Republican in his second week as a member of Congress, Stivers yesterday returned to a Capitol Hill shaken by the savage attack on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., the victim of an assassination attempt that also left 12 others wounded and six dead.
Stivers said in an interview that he isn't overly concerned about his safety, either while performing his duties in Washington or back in his 15th Congressional District in central Ohio, where he will continue to hold public events and meet with constituents.
"We all lost a little bit of innocence," Stivers said from his new quarters in the Longworth House Office Building.
"I don't feel unsafe at home now, and I don't feel unsafe here. (But) we need to make sure our citizens and constituents feel safe when they visit with their congress people."
On a day when the new House GOP majority had expected to pass a repeal of the health-care reform law, yesterday instead was a day of bipartisan tributes by somber lawmakers.
"This body has yet to fully register the magnitude of this tragedy," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, speaking emotionally on the floor about a resolution condemning the shooting and honoring the victims.
"We feel a litany of unwanted emotions no resolution could possibly capture. We know that we gather here without distinction of party."
GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, said members cannot let the shooting rampage change how they go about their jobs.
"This senseless tragedy has struck at the very foundation of the United States of America," Tiberi said. "We are members of the people's house. The minute we start separating ourselves from the people is the minute we weaken our republic."
Stivers said it probably wouldn't be practical or necessary to have local law enforcement officers on hand every time he has a public event in central Ohio. However, he said he is taking steps - declining to name specifics - to increase safety and security when he meets with constituents in public places.
Stivers and other lawmakers also will be receiving information from House security officers about new recommendations for safeguarding legislators, staff members and constituents in district offices and at events.
Stivers said he is reluctant to reach quick conclusions about whether federal legislation is needed to address issues raised by the shootings, from dealing with the mentally ill to gun control.
While it's tempting to do "knee-jerk legislation" in reaction to a tragedy, Stivers said, lawmakers are better served to "look at the facts and see what the facts are" before proposing legislation.