Giffords Shooting Puts Focus On Security

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Reaction to the Arizona massacre is pouring in from around the country, especially from lawmakers and others close to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who was shot and wounded in the incident. Law enforcement officials held a conference call with lawmakers to talk about security in the days ahead.

GUY RAZ, host:

Reaction to the Arizona massacre is pouring in from around the country, especially from lawmakers and others close to Congresswoman Giffords.

Earlier today, the Speaker of the House John Boehner spoke about the tragedy.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Speaker of the House; Republican, Ohio): To the members of the House and their staffs, I ask that you, on this Sabbath day, that we keep Gabby and her staff in our thoughts and prayers. Public service is a high honor, but these tragic events remind us that all of us in our roles in service to our fellow citizens comes with a risk.

RAZ: Because of that risk, law enforcement officials held a conference call for all members of Congress today to talk about security in the days ahead.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook is in the U.S. Capitol following all of this.

And, Andrea, tell me what you know about this conference call.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Well, it was only open to members of Congress and their staffs, mainly because it included comments from the sergeant at arms, the chief of Capitol police, the head of the Office of the Attending Physician in the Capitol, and a few other people spoke.

They spoke about security of the members of Congress and their personnel. And, in fact, much of the call, apparently - and I get this from several congressional sources - spoke about concerns for security of spouses of members of Congress, how members keep safe, especially when they're in the districts.

All of these officials told members of Congress that they need to be coordinating with local police departments all across the United States in their districts.

I should say that Speaker Boehner in his comments said: An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve. And I think that is the major take-home message out of this conference call.

RAZ: Andrea, I can imagine that there's a sense of shock on Capitol Hill. What is it like up there today?

SEABROOK: Well, the most striking thing coming toward the building in the first place is that the flags are at half-staff. And we're all reminded that the flags are at half-staff because of the staffer of Congresswoman Giffords. Gabe Zimmerman died in the attack.

And, you know, oftentimes up here, the staffers, these people who work their hearts out for their member of Congress and truly believe in the cause that these people fight for, their names aren't often remembered.

And so for people up here in the Capitol, it's important to see the flags at half-staff for him.

RAZ: Andrea, I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to ask you to step out of your reporter's shoes for a moment and just talk about Gabrielle Giffords.

So many people seemed to love this person on both sides of the aisle, and you've come to know her pretty well yourself, haven't you?

SEABROOK: Yes. It's hard to imagine the anger being more misplaced. Gabrielle Giffords is a wonderful woman. Aside from her politics, we members of the press up here often work with these members of Congress and their staff so closely that we come to think of these people as colleagues.

And often, we care more - when the cameras are turned off and the lights are turned off, we care more about how a person is as a person than we do about their politics.

And you couldn't find somebody better to work with and more wonderful than Gabrielle Giffords. Her eyes shone. She would smile and hug me in the hall or hug her colleague in the call, and she is a joy to work with up here, and I think everyone feels the same way about her.

RAZ: That's NPR's congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook.

Andrea, Thank you.


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