In wake of congressional shooting, how safe are Pennsylvania lawmakers and Capitol visitors?

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – In the Pennsylvania state House, the Democratic whip began Wednesday’s session by remembering the Republican congressional whip who was wounded by a gunman while practicing for a baseball game in Virginia.

“I think it appropriate,” Rep. Mike Hanna (D-Clinton/Centre) told a hushed chamber, “that we take a few moments of silence and reflection and prayer for our legislative colleagues in Virginia who were victims of an attack this morning.”

There were prayers in session and a heightened sense of awareness everywhere else at the Capitol.

“We took today’s event under review,” Capitol Police spokesman Troy Thompson said. “We’re looking at things we can do such as increased patrols.”

Long before Wednesday’s shooting, a legislative task force has been evaluating Pennsylvania security, looking for weaknesses and ways to improve. Also unrelated, Capitol Police are in the middle of an $8 million upgrade.

“Which involves higher resolution cameras, more of them, and an increased communications center and other infrastructure improvements that I really can’t talk about in order to maintain the integrity of our security system,” Thompson said.

It’s a tough balancing act for law enforcement because the Capitol is “the people’s house”.

“People should be able to come and go freely, which creates some security concerns,” said Sen. Mike Regan (R-York/Cumberland) who spent 23 years as a U.S. marshal before running for elective office.

It’s near impossible to keep all the people safe all of the time. So should all lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and Harrisburg be given security details?

“I would say no,” Regan said. “I don’t know how we pay for it, number one, and number two, it’s just part of the job if you’re gonna run for office. You certainly factor that into your decision-making process; whether you can withstand the pressures that come with it and that’s one of them. Am I secure? Is my family gonna be secure?”

After Wednesday’s events in Virginia, lawmakers may be re-evaluating their answers to that question. Many can’t help but wonder now whether someone waiting around the corner is carrying weapons and a grudge.

“The Capitol Police and the security guys we have in the building do a great job,” Regan said.

He then added, “but there’s only so much they can do.”

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