Police Security Needed When Members of Congress Meet Public, Say 60 Percent of Americans

About 60 percent of Americans believe police presence should be mandatory when members of Congress hold Town Hall-type events, a new poll shows.

The poll, commissioned by The Hill, a Washington D.C. newspaper, also found that 91 percent of Americans want to keep seeing meet-and-greets with members of Congress like the one Gabrielle Giffords was at on January 8 in Tucson.

The total lack of police or any other kind of security at Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" event was clearly a contributing factor in the tragedy, according to experts we've spoken to in the past week. Yesterday, Douglas Police Chief Alberto Melis told us that when he learned Giffords was holding an event at a Safeway in 2009, he deployed several police officers without waiting to be asked.  

Video of the mass shooting reportedly shows Loughner pacing near Giffords just before he opened fire. From today's Washington Post article:

In one video, the gunman, whom police believe is Loughner, emerges from the store's south entrance, then loops around a table set up outside for Giffords' "Congress on Your Corner" event with constituents. He is "hurriedly walking," Kastigar said, then approaches Giffords head on.

We asked Thomas Mangan, spokesman for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms bureau this morning if he agreed the description of Loughner's movements outside the grocery store would  have attracted police attention. Yes, Mangan says.

Even some of the witnesses at the scene remember noticing Loughner in his black hoodie before the shooting, Mangan points out. A cop, had one been on hand, would be even more likely to think something was weird about Loughner. A cop might have noticed a bulge under Loughner's clothing from the Glock with the extended clip, or "certain gestures" people hiding guns tend to make, like tapping the concealed weapon, he says.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio today announced that he'd offer security for public officials. But the fact is, he and other top cops almost certainly would have provided security before the January 8 shooting, if they'd been asked.

As Melis' decision in 2009 shows, some don't have to be asked.

Giffords' office didn't request security for the January 8 event, and officials with the Pima County Sheriff's Office, who had jurisdiction where the shooting occurred, claim they had no idea Giffords had planned the event.

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