John Cornyn: Let federal prosecutors carry guns on the job

April 4, 2013

This item has been updated.

Responding to the recent shooting deaths of two Texas state prosecutors, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) is considering legislation that would permit federal prosecutors to carry firearms when working on federal property.


Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) (AP)

Cornyn, a former Texas attorney general, wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. late Wednesday requesting more information on Justice Department policy regarding when and where federal prosecutors may carry firearms. Current policy bars prosecutors from carrying personal firearms to their offices even if they hold a state-issued concealed-carry licenses.

Cornyn wrote that if that policy is indeed true, "then the safety and security of federal officials demands the policy's immediate reconsideration. Prosecutor safety should start with enabling them to defend themselves from violent attack."

Allison Price, a DOJ spokesperson, said the department is reviewing Cornyn's letter.

"We take the safety of Justice Department personnel extremely seriously, and take appropriate steps when warranted," Price said in an e-mail. "We have no comment on specific security measures that may be in place."

Cornyn's inquiries come just days after Kaufman County, Texas District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife were found shot to death. Not long before his killing, McLelland told reporters that he had started carrying a gun with him after one of his assistant prosecutors, Mark Hasse was fatally shot in January.

Another law enforcement official, Colorado's state prison chief, was shot to death at his front door on March 19.

It is a federal crime to kill, assault, intimidate or interfere with federal employees performing official duties, and the safety of federal prosecutors and other federal court officials has become a greater concern in recent years with the rise of threats and attacks.

One recent high-profile example was the shooting death of U.S. District Court Judge John M. Roll, who was killed in the assassination attempt that wounded former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). But other federal judges and prosecutors also have been targeted.

The National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, a group representing federal prosecutors, has endorsed state and federal legislation that would permit prosecutors to carry a weapon at all times. The group also pushes the Justice Department to permit more of its members to be deputized in order to carry weapons on federal property, a spokesman said.

Cornyn said in his letter to Holder that he is working on legislation to bolster security for federal judicial personnel. Aides declined to comment further on his plans.

Follow Ed O'Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

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Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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