Congress has been consumed by a gun-control debate weighing the need to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the need to defend oneself in case of attack.
But one senator pointed out to Attorney General Eric Holder today that those prosecuting the criminals reportedly have restrictions placed on their ability to defend themselves despite laws protecting where prosecutors who hold concealed carry permits can take their guns.
Just as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., stirred the broader gun-control debate ready to makes its Senate floor debut next week, the chilling attacks on two Texas state prosecutors have sparked concern about how those putting criminals behind bars can defend themselves from the next ambush.
Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were gunned down at their suburban Dallas home last weekend. NBC News reported McLelland was shot 20 times and his wife was shot once.
On Jan. 31, an assistant prosecutor in McLelland’s office, Mark Haase, was shot to death in a parking lot near the county courthouse. There have been no arrests in either case, though the Aryan Brotherhood is consistently named as a top suspect. In December, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin warning tips they’d received of retaliation plots in the works by the 4,000-strong prison gang.
After Haase’s death, McLelland, an Army vet, took to carrying a gun. Shortly before his death, he said in an interview that his colleagues need to be on alert and prepared for attacks. “The people in my line of work are going to have to get better at it, because they’re going to need it more in the future,” McLelland said.
On Tuesday, an assistant U.S. attorney in Houston withdrew from an Aryan Brotherhood racketeering case out of fears for his and his family’s safety.
And the net could be cast even farther as the FBI has been investigating potential ties between Hasse’s killing and the March 19 murder of Colorado prisons chief Tom Clements.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said prosecutors are left less secure by reported flouting of 18 United States Code §930, which exempts “an officer, agent, or employee of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision thereof, who is authorized by law to engage in or supervise the prevention, detection, investigation, or prosecution of any violation of law” from the prohibition on carrying weapons in a federal facility.
“I am told that as a matter of policy, federal prosecutors are barred from carrying personal self-defense firearms to their offices (and parking facilities) even if they hold a state-issued concealed carry license,” Cornyn wrote to Holder and U.S. Courts Director Thomas Hogan.
“If this information is accurate and is a matter of federal court policy, then the safety and security of federal officials demands the policy’s immediate reconsideration,” the senator continued. “Prosecutor safety should start with enabling them to defend themselves from violent attack.”