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Senators don't plan security changes

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News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Bemidji Pioneer
Senators don't plan security changes
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Minnesota's two senators don't plan heightened security measures after last weekend's massacre in Tucson, Ariz.

But they do believe that the public discourse needs to be toned down, that it may be causing the mentally unbalanced to read a different message that may lead to violence.


Last Saturday, a lone gunman at a Tucson shopping mall shot U.S. Rep. Gabriele Giffords, R-Ariz., and mortally wounded a federal judge, a 9-year-old girl and four others, and injured more than a dozen bystanders.

"It's really, really sad," Sen. Al Franken, DFL-Minn., said this week to the Bemidji Pioneer Editorial Board. "We'll never really know what went through his mind. (His writings) are really incoherent."

Franken spoke of Jared Loughner, the 22-year-old alleged shooter who posted rambling, anti-government statements on You Tube.

"It is a good wake-up call for people to tamp down the rhetoric," Franken said. "There's no place for violence in politics in this country."

Asked if he meant the rhetoric of right-wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck, Franken said, "I don't want to single anyone out, but I think we know examples where I hope people take a look at what they've been saying and stop it."

Once a liberal talk show host for Air America, Franken said, "I never did anything like that."

If there is anything to come out of the tragedy other than prayers for the victims and families, said U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, "it's also that we can step back a little and think how can we work together as a country and maybe tamp down some of the rhetoric."

Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, said she's not the one to say what triggered Loughner, "but I'm sure we will at some point. I'm sure he's talking, he left notes, so we're going to be able to figure that out."

People can't say what caused Loughner to undertake his shooting spree, but Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., said that "we do know at times people are making threats and they're calling people names and I just think that has no place when we've got these big things to tackle."

She also, in an interview this week, refused to point to any individual politicians or commentators, saying that "I'm not talking about one party or another; both sides can get pretty vitriolic. I think that as we look at these challenges, we know that Republicans and Democrats can work together,"

She said in the last few months in the Senate, there was a move to bipartisanship with passage of a tax bill, the nuclear arms treaty, 9/11 first responders aid bill and defense reauthorization funding.

"That was a good sign in the Senate for what we can do in the future," Klobuchar said.

The nation needs to focus on jobs, she said.

"It's very difficult for people when you don't have enough jobs," she said. "I think we're going to bring people together, and once we start employing people more, people are going to feel better about everything -- their government and everything else."

Curbing the federal deficit "will also allow people to have trust in their government,

she said.

Both Klobuchar and Franken were traveling throughout northwest Minnesota earlier this week, and both only had one aide accompanying them who was not armed.

"We're not making changes," Klobuchar said of her security arrangements. "I think what will happen is local law enforcement will make decisions where there are rallies. I come from a prosecutor background and I believe your local cops, no matter where you are, are going to make of what's safe -- not only for the elected official but for the people who are there."

Klobuchar said that "I am not making any changes: I have not asked for any extra security." She visited 13 towns this week on her "Innovation Tour."

Franken was also visiting towns, talking jobs, and meeting with editorial boards in northern Minnesota.

"Some people live in an irony-free world and an irony-free zone that surrounds them, Franken said. "And what are you going to do?"

Franken said he'd take security on "a case-by-case basis. ... Minnesotans are great, but ther are certain things you take on a case-by-case basis. That's pretty common sense."