WASHINGTON -- The shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Saturday struck home with California public officials of all stripes, reminding them anew of their own vulnerabilities.
Shortly after the shooting, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, said he and other House members received multiple e-mail warnings from Capitol Hill law enforcement officials.
They told us to increase our vigilance, and to have more security at our public events, Cardoza said, adding that we will follow the recommendations of the police.
One e-mail advised lawmakers that the U.S. Capitol Police are directly involved in this investigation and urged members and staff to take reasonable and prudent precautions regarding their personal security.
The shooting raises also security questions for others associated with the federal government, including judges. Arizona-based U.S. District Judge John Roll was among those slain Saturday.
Oliver W. Wanger, a district judge in Fresnos federal courthouse, noted that rulings can make judges targets of dangerously angry individuals. In the wake of the Arizona shooting, Wanger said he expects courthouse security will be closely scrutinized.
A November 2010 audit by the Justice Departments Office of Inspector General already found weaknesses in the (Marshals Service) efforts to protect the physical security of federal court facilities, and investigators noted one chief judge was generally dissatisfied with courtroom security procedures.
Outside the courthouse, too, the rules may evolve.
A public appearance without security is something I expect will change, Wanger said.
Wanger recalled a 2008 debate with then-Fresno Mayor Alan Autry, which was widely publicized and held at a downtown Fresno club. Wanger was not accompanied by security officers to the event.
"In the future, that event would be moved to a secure venue, or they would say dont do it, he said.
During past security scares, as in the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, some California House members undertook some simple precautions such as keeping the doors closed to their Capitol Hills offices.
At the same time, lawmakers are obliged by their profession to be out in public. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, for instance, made a point of declaring Saturday afternoon that she would still be holding a previously scheduled Community New Years Celebration on Market Street in downtown San Francisco.
Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, was said by spokesperson Mara Lee to have no public events previously scheduled for the weekend, and Cardoza likewise did not have public events previously scheduled in his congressional district.
As a member of congressional leadership, Pelosi already receives the protection of armed, plainclothes officers from the U.S. Capitol Police. Rank-and-file members of Congress, by contrast, do not typically receive federal protection outside of Capitol Hill.
Its a real problem, Cardoza said of the security conundrum. You want to be accessible, but I also care very deeply about the security of my staff and of the people who attend these public events.
Cardoza said security considerations contributed to his previous decision to relocate his Modesto and Merced congressional district offices to government buildings that already maintain a security presence.
He indicated security concerns also played into his earlier decision to curtail some public town hall meetings during the politically heated summer of 2009.
Threats against lawmakers are not uncommon. Cardoza said his office has been on the receiving end of some. He added that Giffords, a friend and political ally for whom he campaigned in Arizona during 2008, had previously reported that one of her own congressional offices had been vandalized.
Shes been concerned, Cardoza said.
Giffords and Cardoza are both members of the so-called Blue Dog Caucus, largely comprised of moderate House Democrats.
Usually, lawmakers keep mum about the explicit threats they may receive; in some cases, the threats themselves dont become publicly known for years. Following the 1995 death of San Joaquin Valley congressman B.F. Bernie Sisk, FBI files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that a disgruntled veteran had written threatening letters
"You deserve a bullet right between your dirty heart, and I am going down to Washington and see that you get what is coming to you , you snake," the letter-writer advised Sisk in July 1956.
For the most part, Wanger said he has no intention of changing his routine.
I am not really concerned about my personal security, except as the experts that are in charge of that direct us, he said. Otherwise, I live my life just as if I was any other citizen.