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Giffords shooting prompts security concerns from lawmakers, on Hill and at home

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Shaken by the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), lawmakers from both parties say it's time to tone down the rhetoric. The nation's bitter political climate has been cited as a possible reason for the rampage that left six dead and Giffords injured.

"The security posture hasn't changed, and people will still notice the robust Capitol Police presence on the Capitol grounds," she said. She declined to comment on the review of new threats and concerns reported by lawmakers.

Several reported new threats over the weekend, Chaffetz said. He forwarded to authorities the threatening messages he received on Twitter after the shooting.

"Obviously, I want them to look into that," he said. "People just need to calm down and relax. The anger seems to flow both ways, in both directions."

Chaffetz, who carries a gun when he's home in Utah, has ordered an immediate security review at his district offices and worries about the safety of his family. Potential attackers "know you're in D.C. and your wife and kids are here, and that's something, unfortunately, that warrants looking at," he said.

To ease such fears, lawmakers may ask Capitol Police officials to visit district offices to assess security and determine what additional steps should be taken, including installing silent alarms that would instantly alert local police when activated, said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).

"There will be a heightened, renewed sense" of threats from constituents, the sort of things that in the past might have been dismissed by lawmakers and staff, he said.

Chaffetz says U.S. Marshals could help.

About 4,000 deputy marshals provide security for federal judges, prosecutors and Supreme Court justices when they travel, according to spokesman Jeff Carter. The agency isn't planning significant changes to federal courthouse security, because U.S. District Judge John M. Roll, who was killed in Saturday's melee, wasn't the target of an assassination plot, Carter said.

A November watchdog report raised concerns about security at federal court facilities, detailing the poor training, questionable contracts and broken security equipment used by many contract security guards employed by the Marshals service.

Watchdogs are also concerned with security at buildings housing executive branch agencies. Contract guards with the Federal Protective Service - which handle about 9,000 federal facilities - failed to detect bombmaking materials smuggled into 10 high-security federal buildings in 2009, according to the Government Accountability Office. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) is expected to introduce legislation next month to bolster the agency's budget and staff, a spokeswoman said Sunday.

Obama administration officials contacted Sunday did not anticipate stepped-up security at federal buildings in the coming days.

Staff writers Paul Kane, Ben Pershing, Lois Romano and Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.


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