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Mass. Officials Weigh Importance Of Security, Accessible Gov’t01:24
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In the wake of the weekend shooting in Arizona, Massachusetts officials are reviewing security measures surrounding lawmakers in this state.

At a Monday reception following a groundbreaking for a new housing development at the old Weymouth Naval Air Station, Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA) mingled with constituents, accompanied by a sole aide. While Keating has only been on the job for less than a week, he's no stranger to this type of meet-and-greet, having served as a state senator and, for the last 12 years, as the Norfolk County district attorney.

"In that role, both members of my staff and myself faced threats. And we realize, you know, that you have a public life that goes on, but you also have to use your common sense around that as well," Keating said.

Keating said that despite the events in Tucson, he has no intention to change the way he interacts with the public.

"It's so important to our capacity to serve that we create these opportunities for people to just come and talk with us, and so I feel very strongly we're going to have to find a way to move forward..."

Rep. Nikki Tsongas (D-MA)

Neither does Rep. Nikki Tsongas (D-MA). She was holding her own "Congress on your Corner" event in Chelmsford Saturday afternoon, when she received word her colleague, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), had been shot. Tsongas said she will wait to see what the Capitol Police say about stepping up security for individual members.

"It's so important to our capacity to serve that we create these opportunities for people to just come and talk with us, and so I feel very strongly we're going to have to find a way to move forward and continue to do these kind of events one way or the other," Tsongas said.

Keeping government open and accessible is a concern for most elected officials on every level. Here at the State House, security was beefed up considerably after the 9/11 attacks nearly 10 years ago. The general public can only come in through two entrances, their bags and brief cases are X-rayed. And in the unlikely event they try to bring in a weapon, they will set off a metal detector. The governor said the security here is good.

"It's constantly being rethought and reconsidered by the state police and those who have that responsibility," Gov. Deval Patrick said. "We all get threats and all that, and I think we all try to use our best judgment and we want to strike a balance, as you would in any successful democracy, to have the right level of security, but not to wall yourself off from the general public that you don't have that contact with the people we serve."

The governor said he doesn't know if the heated political rhetoric of recent months played any role in the Arizona shooting. But he said his concerns about the tone of political debate predates the attack on Giffords.

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This program aired on January 11, 2011.

Steve Brown Twitter Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's State House reporter.

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