Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2011

By Karissa Minn
Even after a shooter killed six people and critically wounded a federal representative in Tucson, Ariz., legislators from North Carolina say they won’t be stepping up their own security.
U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was one of 14 people wounded during the Jan. 8 shooting, which took place while she was visiting constituents outside a supermarket. Police arrested Jared Loughner, 22, in connection with the attack.
During his 14 terms in office, U.S. Rep. Howard Coble said he has received anywhere from 25 to 40 death threats in his 14 terms in office.
“I don’t think we ever forward those threats to law enforcement, because I just conclude that this is some guy who’s angry and he’s blaming me for it, and I dismiss it,” Coble said Thursday. “I may be not be so casual in light of the Arizona tragedy, but I don’t plan to arm myself with a firearm.”
He said it’s important to him as an elected official to be accessible to the constituents, and he doesn’t want anyone to feel threatened.
U.S. Sen. Richard Burr released a statement expressing a similar opinion.
“Senator Burr’s main priority is to be accessible to his constituents, and he does not think it is necessary to drastically increase his security when traveling in North Carolina,” said David Ward, Burr’s communications director.
U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, who said in a statement she was “horrified to learn about the senseless tragedy,” noted that Giffords was visiting constituents outside a grocery store when she was shot.
“Since I was elected to the Senate, I have hosted many similar open events across North Carolina, and I will continue to do so because the people of North Carolina elected me to listen to their concerns,” Hagan said. “I believe access to public officials is inherent to our democracy.”
Hagan’s press officer, Jack Pfeiffer, said Hagan does not plan to carry a gun to public events and trusts local law enforcement to protect her and those who meet with her.
U.S. Rep. Mel Watt could not be reached for comment, but the Raleigh News and Observer reported Jan. 20 that he doesn’t plan on carrying a firearm either.
“I support the right to carry a gun legally, but I don’t have that experience,” Watt told the News and Observer. “I don’t want to accidentally shoot myself in the leg.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.