More security, but no weapons-screening, recommended for state Capitol
December 17, 2012 — 3:28pm
A state advisory committee recommended additional security officers, but no weapons-screening, to ensure the safety of workers and visitors to the state Capitol and nearby government buildings.
The Advisory Committee on Capitol Area Security, chaired by Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, edited and approved their report Monday. The action was part of a months-long review of Capitol security and was not related to recent gun violence around the nation.
The report recommends increasing the number of state troopers assigned to the Capitol and area buildings from two to 12, and the number of Capitol Security guards from 40 to 67. That request to the 2013 Legislature will be finalized when the committee meets again in January.
The Capitol has locked doors with key-card electronic access and 450 video surveillance cameras throughout the Capitol area, but no regular weapons screening such as in place at the Hennepin and Ramsey county courthouses.
Prettner Solon said the issue came up before the committee, but the group chose not to require weapons screening. She did say the committee wants the buildings to have have power outlets at the entrances "in case we need to add additional security if there were a threat."
Traditionally, discussion of weapons-screening has been opposed by those who want to keep the Capitol visitor-friendly, as befits "the people's house." She said the committee discussed how weapons-screening "might conflict with the desire to have the openness to the Capitol."
"I think that we were preferring where there could be steps up in security rather than the constant level of safety measures that may not be necessary all the time," she said.
Gov. Mark Dayton said he is open to tougher Capitol security, but doesn’t want the building to be unwelcoming to residents. The governor said he doesn't’t believe there is much Capitol security can do to deter a sophisticated criminal bent on doing harm.
The former U.S. Senator said he thought about U.S. Capitol security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and how someone could sneak a weapon through, even after the beefed up security measures. “It wouldn't’t be that difficult for some kind of sophisticated operative to do that,” he said.
“You do the best you can,” Dayton said. “But I don’t believe we can and even should bar the public from accessing their Capitol.”
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