Giffords shooting raises security questions

Experts discuss the steps public officials and others need to take to protect themselves


In the aftermath of the attempted assassination of Giffords, lawmakers are considering a bipartisan proposal that calls for the Capitol Police, which is in charge of protecting members of Congress, to formalize their relationships with local authorities across the country in an effort to better standardize security plans for events like the one held in Arizona last week. Rugala said that while this proposal would likely foster better communication between authorities, it by no means would be full-proof.

"There can always be better coordination," he said. "I think they are already doing a lot of these things and that could certainly be helpful, but local police have to be brought into the loop."

While some have even hinted at around-the-clock protection for federal lawmakers, McCann says that that is just not necessary in most cases, especially considering the time and resources that it would involve.

"It's easy for everyone to shoot from the hip and say now we have to provide 24/7 protection for members of Congress, but money is tight. It's nice to say these things, but it's very costly and it is not always appropriate," McCann added. "We have one terrible incident and it brings (these potential dangers) to everyone's attention, but what is the common sense approach?"

Rugala suggested that local authorities could potentially use the fusion centers setup across the country by the Department of Homeland Security for increased information sharing on terrorism threats as a vehicle to communicate threats against public officials.

"Communication is key in any active shooter scenario," Rugala explained. "We've heard this phrase 'connect the dots' ad nauseum since 9/11, but there is no central repository for this type of information. Hindsight is always 20/20 when you start to look back at these things."

While some in the media have pointed a finger at the tone of political rhetoric as playing a role in the Giffords shooting, Rugala believes from what has been learned about the suspect in the case thus far, that didn't play a big role in his motivation.

"Generally what we see in these offenders is that they are very mission-oriented, they have a target in mind and approach or eliminate that person," he said. "The big issue for me (about the attack) is that we're dealing with a pathology, not an ideology and there seems to be nothing done on either side of the aisle that influenced this man."

Rugala also warned about the potential for copycat incidents to pop up because someone who was already considering committing an act of violence like this may be further motivated by all of the media attention that they see has been placed on it.

"I think after many of these events there is a heightened sense of awareness," Rugala said. "After these events occur we have to be careful not to become complacent."

McCann says that people can't expect just to throw money and people at the problem and hope that it will go away.

"We may not be able to prevent everything and anything from happening at all times. We do our best to prevent (acts of violence), but things do happen," he said. "You have to look at the cause of it and at the bigger picture"