WASHINGTON — Concerned about the recent shooting deaths of two state prosecutors, a Republican U.S. senator from Texas says federal prosecutors should be allowed to carry firearms when working on federal property.
Sen. John Cornyn, a former state attorney general, wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder late Wednesday requesting more information on Justice Department policy regarding when and where federal prosecutors may carry firearms. Current policy bars prosecutors from carrying personal firearms to their offices, even if they hold state-issued concealed-carry licenses.
If that’s the case, Cornyn wrote, “then the safety and security of federal officials demands the policy’s immediate reconsideration. Prosecutor safety should start with enabling them to defend themselves from violent attack.” The senator is considering legislation to change the policy.
Allison Price, a Justice spokeswoman, said the department is reviewing the letter from Cornyn.
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“We take the safety of Justice Department personnel extremely seriously, and take appropriate steps when warranted,” Price said in an email. “We have no comment on specific security measures that may be in place.”
Cornyn’s inquiry comes days after Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found shot to death in their Texas home. Not long before his killing, McLelland told reporters that he had started carrying a gun after one of his assistant prosecutors, Mark Hasse, was fatally shot in January.
Another law-enforcement official, Colorado’s state prisons chief, was shot to death at his front door March 19.
It is a federal crime to kill, assault, intimidate or interfere with federal employees performing official duties, and the safety of federal prosecutors and other federal court officials has become a greater concern in recent years with the rise of threats and attacks.
One recent high-profile example was the shooting death of U.S. District Judge John Roll, who was killed in the 2011 assassination attempt that wounded former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. Several federal judges and prosecutors also have been targeted.
The National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys, a group representing federal prosecutors, has endorsed state and federal legislation that would permit prosecutors to carry a weapon at all times. The group also pushes the Justice Department to permit more of its members to be deputized in order to carry weapons on federal property, a spokesman said.
Cornyn said in his letter to Holder that he is working on legislation to bolster security for federal judicial personnel.