A conversation centered around both civilian and politician safety was emphasized this week by politicians and media personalities after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, and four other people were shot during an early morning baseball practice on Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia.
Mark Heffernan is the father of Belleville Police Lt. Mark Heffernan and the chief of security at the Belleville-based business Protective Services Group, Inc. He said regardless of preventative measures, people need to know there’s just never a guarantee of safety.
“If you look at the president of the United States and how many people he has around him and all the efforts they go through to protect the president –we still have had a number of them shot at and assassinated,” he said. “You can never guarantee people will be safe.”
Still, Heffernan said there are measures people — both politicians and private citizens alike — can take to increase their safety.
His biggest tip is to talk to and hire people who are experts in the field. Specifically, he noted, experts in the security and protection of people.
U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, spoke on-air with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday. Blitzer asked him if Bost would increase security back in southern Illinois during town halls.
“We usually do anyway, but … this makes you become more aware,” Bost said in the interview. “In the it became situation awareness. That’s what we have to do — we have to do our due diligence to make sure that we are safe.”
While he did not mention it in the interview, Bost no longer holds traditional town halls. He conducts telephone town halls or private meetings to communicate with constituents.
“The work we do here has conflict, but it should never climb to the level of combat,” Bost said.
As for Wednesday’s shooting, Heffernan said he didn’t think people need be more concerned about safety.
“I think that these individuals are rare and that’s the good thing,” Heffernan said. “And whether or not — and how –they are going to pop up, the lone wolf types are really hard to keep track of and understand what their mindset is.”
He mentioned former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords who survived after she was shot in the head by Jared Loughner in Tucson, Arizona on Jan. 8, 2011. Heffernan said she was out in public talking to her constituents, and even with security she couldn’t avoid the attack.
“And with a lot of these active shooters at schools, movies theaters … They are going out through society and attacking individuals just for the sake of attacking them,” Heffernan said. “So it’s very hard to say ‘we are going to stop all that.'”
Several metro-east politicians did not respond to News-Democrat interview requests on the topic of rising security concerns.
Some politicians, The Hill reported, are taking personal safety into their own hands.
Rep. Chris Collins, R-New York, said in light of Wednesday’s shooting he would be carrying a gun with him when permissible by Washington, D.C. gun laws. The Hill added that the Capitol complex has a ban on all guns.
Law enforcement investigators released Jame Hodgkinson’s identity shortly after the Wednesday morning shooting that sent Scalise and three other people to the hospital.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump said Scalise was “in some trouble” but “he’s going to be OK, we hope.”
Dana Rieck: 618-239-2642, @ByDanaRieck
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