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Affected by Tuscon? Not Northland reps

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How can our representatives in Washington not think about it, not worry about it? How can they not wonder, after what happened in Tucson, after a congresswoman was targeted by a gunman while out doing what we want our elected leaders to be doing, which was being available, greeting the public and hearing their concerns?

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How can Minnesota's U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar not think twice about continuing to make their own public appearances, about mixing with constituents, sometimes hundreds at a time, nearly all of them entirely unknown?

Whether they do or don't have reservations now, all three of the Northland's elected federal leaders admirably and courageously vowed in interviews with the News Tribune Opinion page not to allow the tragedy in Arizona to affect their commitment to be "of the people" by being among the people.

"One of the most important parts of my job as a senator is meeting with Minnesotans and hearing about the challenges they face, and there's nothing that's going to get in the way of that," Franken said in a written response. "It certainly didn't when I was in Duluth last weekend. I haven't made any changes to my schedule, and I don't plan to. I'm going to continue interacting with my constituents and serving the people of Minnesota."

"Safety is always a concern," Cravaack spokesman Shawn Ryan said yesterday in a telephone interview. "The congressman doesn't fear his constituency. What happened is absolutely not going to prevent him from doing town hall meetings, going forward. It's a tragic situation (and) security is something we're always concerned with. But if anything, this makes him more motivated to get out and meet with the people of the 8th Congressional District and interact with them."

The congressman's office has procedures in place to handle threats, Ryan said. He declined to divulge details. Security specifics aren't discussed publicly by the staffers for any public figure.

"We're never going to just play it by ear as far as (Cravaack's) safety is concerned," Ryan said. "It's definitely something we'll address. If it's a large event, we'll let local law enforcement know."

Klobuchar travels sans security personnel. She doesn't envision that changing, but she does anticipate changes at larger public events.

"I think local law enforcement will look at what happened and think differently about public meetings," she said in a meeting late last week with the News Tribune editorial board. "There'll be more police presence and people will understand why (officers) are there and will appreciate that they're there."

Law enforcement in Duluth already is thinking about what happened in Tucson and the lessons that can be learned from a horrible moment.

"Like police departments all across the country, we will thoroughly review the final report from the Tucson incident," Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay told the Opinion page. "Based on the findings, we may adapt and update our policies and procedures in an attempt to stay on top of best practices to keep our citizens and elected officials safe.

"One of our top goals is to protect our citizens from acts of violence," Ramsay said.

That includes our elected officials, who can't -- and apparently won't be -- going into hiding because of an isolated moment of terror.

Constituents can appreciate such courage and dedication just as they can expect easy access to their elected leaders.

Here's wishing Cravaack, Franken and Klobuchar, and public servants everywhere, many successful -- and safe -- public events. -- Duluth News Tribune

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