Monday, January 25, 2010


Carl Parker sez:

The recent incident involving a man entering the State Capitol and then stepping out on one of the porticos and firing a gun into the air has renewed the debate about Capitol security.  Recently, the House and Senate installed metal detectors outside their entrances for the general public to make sure no one entered the gallery of either chamber carrying a gun.  It has always been a mystery to me for them to be so paranoid about citizens having guns when the majority of both Houses have expressed the fervent belief better law enforcement and greater safety exists when everybody is armed.  It seems to me that it would be consistent with their belief system to say that if every citizen in the gallery had a gun, wrongdoers would be quickly dispatched by some dedicated member of the NRA before any real harm could take place.  One more bit of right-wing hypocrisy.  They obviously don’t believe what they say. 

However, I agree to some extent with Governor Perry on this.  We should not try to make our state Capitol, which belongs to all people, look like Fort Knox with an airport security area with x-rays, metal detecting machines and magnetic wands throughout the entrance.  What we do have are half-way measures which make Capitol security ridiculous.  On the one hand, we have these massive pillars of concrete and steel blocking the entryway to all of the gated openings of the Capitol grounds.  On the other hand, all 4 huge entrances of the Capitol are wide open, sometimes patrolled and sometimes not.  It makes as much sense as having a steel, vault-like door on the front entrance of your home and not even a door on the back.  The elevator accesses at the rear of the Capitol to the underground offices are locked, requiring a magnetic card for entrance.  There are no DPS personnel at either of these entrances; one seldom has to wait more than five minutes for a staffer to pass through the door with his or her magnetic card and simply follow them in.

There are four principal first floor public entrances to the state Capitol– East, West, North and South.  There are no metal detector machines and even not always a Department of Public Safety trooper present on guard.  The security at the Capitol consists of locking the external entrances for the elevator access areas which lead to the underground extension of the Capitol and installing several million dollars worth of fancy devices which rise up out of the ground like something in a science fiction movie to make sure no car bomb is driven into the areas under the Capitol.  As a matter of fact, the same sort of security devices has now been implanted on every roadway entrance into our beautiful Capitol grounds.  Ordinary citizens and tourists can no longer take a pleasant drive through our beautiful Capitol grounds graced by a spectacular structure of pink granite.

These halfway measures have been implemented at the direction of politicians, not the professionals at the Department of Public Safety.  The governor and others were repeatedly warned of inadequate maintenance of surveillance equipment and an undermanned security force at the governor’s mansion.  The result of ignoring these warnings was to have our governor’s mansion fire-bombed by some nut.  Now, it looks like the politicians are hell-bent on double locking the barn doors now the horse is obviously out of the stable.  In all probability, in the very near future our state capitol will begin to look more like an intercontinental airport.  Whether or not we will be required to remove our shoes to enter our state capitol remains to be seen.

We would be far better off to trust the security of our capitol to the experts in law enforcement.  We should quit skimping on security personnel and have an adequate number of troopers to man each entryway to the Capitol, leaving them all open to the public.  Experienced troopers are as good at detecting suspicious characters as most machines and clearly have the right to search bags, suitcases and backpacks entering the state Capitol.  Such a plan would be a far greater deterrent than the million dollars worth of steel and concrete which has been implanted at every entrance to the Capitol grounds.  In addition, it would help both our employment, our peace of mind, and be far more convenient for the citizens of Texas. 

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